Wednesday, April 14, 2010

There goes the playborhood!

Over at the Huntington's blog, Lisa Timmel, Director of New Work, has decided to let us in on the philosophy guiding next year's season (which, like this year's, will be comprised almost entirely of new or "newish" work):

Some local critics [that means me, folks!] have complained that there is too much new work going on in Boston. The pleasure of experiencing a new play is very different from the pleasure of experiencing an older play and I think everyone has their goldilocks point: this theatre has too many new plays, this theatre has too few, and we’re all looking for the one that gets the balance just right. But that kind of categorical thinking unfairly limits the expansive and expanding experience of attending live theatre. A play is not important simply because it is old or because it is new. A play is important because of the specific story it tells and the unique way it is told. A play is not important simply because we choose to produce it; it is important because you come to see it.

I confess I kind of love this, because it's almost beautifully nonsensical, and doesn't actually address the arguments it pretends it's responding to - after all, who's arguing for old stuff simply because it's old? Is that why the Huntington thinks people love the classics - because they're old?

Then there's the odd claim that a play is only important because the Huntington audience comes to see it. I'm not sure what that even means, but it seems to fly in the face of the established fact that truly ground-breaking drama often plays to small houses.

But then things get really weird:

So, why new plays? Because the world changes and perspectives shift. Because American theatre, in all its forms, thrives on the new, it always has. Our theatre history is full of the degenerate melding of forms: immigrant melodramas, minstrelsy, vaudeville and musicals all of them bubbling up into the mainstream one way or another and getting whitewashed along the way. There simply is no other way to tell the story of this country and our selves without including new work.

"Degenerate melding of forms"? Oooo, don't you just love that academic dirty talk? And how about "Immigrant melodramas, minstrelsy, vaudeville and musicals, all of them bubbling up into the mainstream one way or another and getting whitewashed along the way"? I mean seriously, "whitewashed"? Do I spot Clybourne Park or Neighbors, or maybe The Scottsboro Boys on the horizon? Minstrelsy is so hot these days, there's so much to choose from! Or maybe we'll be treated to some world premiere, in which Stepin Fetchit moves in next door to David Mamet!

Somehow, somewhere, I sense Isaac Butler getting excited. But back to Timmel, who wraps with:

Incidentally, the answer to the question “Why classic plays?” is exactly the same: Because the world changes and perspectives shift. There simply is no other way to tell the story of this country and our selves without including plays from other places and other eras.

Yes, you read that right: we're doing this play instead of that play for the following reason. But if we'd decided to do that play instead of this play, it would be for the same reason.

Really, you can't make this stuff up.

[Update: Isaac Butler is, indeed, already excited!]