Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The usual suspects, or "No Room for Honesty"

Perhaps you can't evict it, but some Boston theatre people would like to co-op it.
You may have heard this already, but I felt I should announce it on the blog: actor Danny Bryck has refused the financial support I offered him to develop No Room for Wishing, the solo piece on the Occupy Boston movement that he is currently developing. This is too bad, of course, in and of itself - I'm sure Danny could have used the cash; but what's most troubling about it is the fact that he was pressured into returning the money by his collaborators in the theatre community.

Yes, you read that right - although I wasn't that surprised to hear the news.  Before I made the announcement of the award, in fact, I mused to Danny that I wondered if it was best to make my support public at all; I sensed that it could unleash a toxic mix of envy, frustrated malice, and phony political rectitude in quite a few of the dimmer players around town.  BUT, I basically believe in transparency - and while I was sure many of my enemies on the scene would be quite discomfited by the news, I didn't really think they would victimize another actor in a misguided attempt to get back at me.

But, guess what - that is what they did.  Danny won't name names regarding those who pressured him - although when you discover the identity of his current director, and at which theatre companies she has worked, you can probably come up with a short list of the usual suspects yourself.

Well, so Danny is out a thousand bucks - and I'm a thousand dollars richer!  Which is kind of nice, I must admit.  Danny, who twisted back and forth on this decision until frankly I got tired of hearing about it, suggested that an "elegant solution" to this "dilemma" would be to donate the money to Occupy Boston.  Only I don't really see it that way - I don't see any dilemma, and at any rate I've already given a good deal of money to Occupy; and wouldn't such a donation send the wrong message by only compounding the irony of his situation?  I mean, how could his collaborators be okay with Danny giving up the donation, but the movement keeping it?   (It would seem that if you're actually against me, then you're against everything I stand for - right?)

Ah, but there's the rub.  Many of the people on my personal short list of perps have long told themselves that I opposed their work because of my supposedly reactionary political views, or because I'm racist, or sexist or whatever.  Yawn.  This is a handy psychological dodge - an elegant way to avoid awareness that you're just not that good at theatre, while congratulating yourself on your politics, and I've seen it practiced often. No one who actually knows me imagines I'm racist or sexist, of course, and my support for Occupy Boston places me quite a bit further to the left of many in the theatre community.  Indeed, my frequent presence at Dewey Square last fall sets me apart, I 'd bet, from Danny's testy collaborators (I rarely saw any theatre people other than Danny down at Occupy).  So in this situation you can clearly limn the outlines of a very embarrassing spectacle in which theatre people who weren't actually at the protest try to lay claim to its goals, while shunning someone who was really there.  In short, Danny's collaborators are violating every principle Occupy ever stood for, all while attempting to wrap themselves in its mantle.

This, of course, is disgusting, but again - hardly unexpected, given whom we're probably talking about.  It's also somewhat pathetic in its incoherence and lack of impact.  Danny's show will go on, of course (he'll just be a little poorer), and in the meantime I'll be looking for other theatres in town to donate the money to.

Only this time I've learned my lesson - no more transparency.  The theatre community obviously can't handle the truth.  The IRNE critics will know of my donations, of course, but to all you "idealists" out there, who imagine you are so courageously battling the forces of evil, I'm keeping them completely confidential.


  1. I can think of a playwright in Boston who could use that cash!

  2. So when a critic defies the worst stereotype of as a hater of the arts and actually becomes a public patron of the arts, some artists cry foul?

    How very enlightened and forward thinking, unnamed collaborators!

  3. It is, very depressing. What does it say about the perception of a grant? It implies, as I see it, that the donor is presumed to impose an editorial power. I think this episode reflects only badly on the recipient.

  4. For the record, while I chatted with Danny Bryck about where he hoped to take the piece (and admittedly, if his intent had been to satirize or denounce Occupy Boston, I probably wouldn't have offered my support), I never inquired about, or even spoke of, having any voice or role in the future development of the project. And how could I have had such a voice, anyway? He'd have long since spent the money before I'd have seen the next iteration.

  5. It bothers me on two fronts:

    1.) the tactics appear to be so similar to the attempt to remove you from the IRNE. No public case has made to argue that you have done anything improper by offering to provide financial support to Danny Bryck's project (I have seen an excerpt and it is certainly a worthy non-commercial project that could use a benefactor)-- it's all behind the scenes pressure.

    2.) There's a simple matter of not allowing a difference of opinion, both in terms of funding and content: How many artists of Danny's calibre actually choose to do such politically charged work? (Most of the explicitly political troupes in this town are fairly amateurish) How many companies would be willing to support Danny's project with their own resources? (A few maybe, I did see the excerpt as part of a Whistler In The Dark off-night program.) Danny is an early career artist, so being so explicitly political is a risky venture and apparently some do not approve.

    Are these "collaborators" trying to shut Danny down, or are they merely being petty towards Tom? This really isn't a win for anyone.

  6. Hi Ian - I don't think they're trying to "shut him down" - they want, actually, to be identified with the project; but they ARE trying to co-opt the work as their own, and they're displeased by the idea that a critic they have campaigned against could actually be a supporter of their politics (just not their product). Again, Danny won't speak to specifics, but I gathered the essential deal was "you can't perform at our theatre if you accept that money from Tom Garvey." The word for this is blackmail, of course, but it's such a weird form of blackmail that it practically defies description.

  7. I also want to add - the various machinations detailed in this blog may sound incredible, but trust me: THEY ARE NOTHING NEW. Critics have always dealt with underhanded maneuvers by various theatres. I'm just the first one to talk about these antics.

  8. Oh I understand that they are nothing new; I merely offended that a talented actor and dialect coach might have been threatened with being blacklisted from certain stages.