Melba LaRose, Produzentin, Regisseurin, Autorin, berichtet aktuell von der Theaterszene in New York. Diesmal: Tiger und Kerle auf Broadway, Theaterkarten durch die Hintertür, und eine sehr gute Nachricht von Bürgermeister Bloomberg.
DINOSAURS SURVIVING THE CRUNCH
(Dedicated to Marketa Kimbrell, Artistic Director of the NY Street Theatre Caravan,who left us July 6, 2011 — I’m still carrying the torch, Marketa!)
Okay, I went to Jerusalem last night and — I believe, I believe! in the joy and redemption of theatre! It was Jerusalem the play, of course, starring the awe-inspiring Mark Rylance. He really deserved that Tony Award — and more. For this role, he deserves a Lifetime Achievement Award every night. In the program, he thanks his trainer and chiropractor, which is most understandable. As „Rooster“ Byron, he struts and frets across the stage as King of all he surveys for a seemingly short three hours. What a playwright — Jez Butterworth! What a director — Ian Rickson! What a cast! What a night. Set in a forest (Flintock, Wiltshire, England, 2011), where Rooster is being evicted from his trailer that hosts raves in the middle of the night, the play does not miss references to Greek mythology and keeps you laughing whilst breaking your heart. In this time of financial disaster, cutbacks, unemployment, and flagging audiences, Jerusalem is a port in a storm — and believe it or not, it’s on Broadway!
Interesting that in such tough times, this was one of the 22 plays to make it to the Great White Way this year. Even some musicals were deadly serious. Scottsboro Boys was a factual African-American tragedy done minstrel style, which made it all the more devastating. And, who can explain thephenomenon of a satirical musical about Mormons. You can’t get a cheap ticket in the clouds for a year. Hundreds of people line up in the early a.m. at Book of Mormon to enter a lottery, where 10
tickets can be bought at half-hour if you’re amongst the lucky winners. Or, you can line up 2 hours before curtain to have a chance at buying standing room. It does not hurt that the creators are the geniuses behind TV’s popular irreverent cartoon, South Park, but that’s not what’s keeping it going ad infinitum. It’s the very traditional, excellent book, staging, and a score that contains lyrics like F***k you, God, as it follows the story of a young missionary to Africa questioning his faith. And, audiences are eating it up.
Also this year: the revival of John Guare’s brilliant House of Blue Leaves, in which somebody tries to blow up the Pope and the lead character kills his wife, a symbol of his thwarted, pointless life; Lincoln Center’s War Horse; The Motherf**ker with the Hat, a darkly comic tale of addiction; Larry Kramer’s prescient play about the AIDs crisis, The Normal Heart, and Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo with Robin Williams playing a POW tiger, who rails against the spoils of war, genocide, greed and a
million other atrocities. Again, a brilliant cast and director — Moises Kaufman of the Tectonic Theatre Co. (The Laramie Project).
IMHO, with the popularity of all these shows, the public is shouting back (as in „Network“): „I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!“ — to frivolous entertainment, T & A, big sets/ big costumes/ big FX, corporate names on theatres, censorship, political correctness, film and popstars selling shows, discrimination, and all those other goodies foist upon it. I’d like to take some credit because of our seven year old International CringeFest of politically incorrect, satirical, irreverent and naughty plays, but honestly… When the powers-that-be move more and more in the direction of control of the masses through empty-headed flash ’n trash, those of us in league with the canaries in the cave begin to create — sometimes great — art that rebels against the machine.
If you’re thinking how can anyone afford to see these shows, think again. Personally, I’ve never paid more than $35 for Broadway (current price at Theatre Development Fund online or at the three TKTS booths around town). Or, you can buy a cheap balcony ticket and move down at curtain. There are membership organizations (e.g., Theatremania’s Gold Club, Audience Extras) that charge about $99/year and consistently offer free tix for all levels of theatre. If you know anyone involved in theatre in NY, they can often get free tix through the Dramatists Guild, Actors Equity, Manhattan Plaza, Actors Fund, etc. Senior centers also offer free vouchers. And, you can always „second act,“ mix with the audience at intermission, walk in and find an empty seat. Many poor actors have done this throughout the years. I personally wouldn’t buy from a „scalper“ in front of a theatre, but very often there are people with extra tix they’re giving away because somebody didn’t show. I’ve done that myself. There’s really no reason you can’t get into a show — unless it’s Book of Mormon — anybody got a connection?!!
All this renewed energy comes on the heels of some great news — finally! It was announced that cuts
in funding for the arts in NYC have been largely restored to almost previous levels — and the Mayor put in an extra $10M for our larger cultural institutions. Say what you will, he is a great friend to the arts. This incredible coup in funding restitution came directly as a result of the intensive arts advocacy campaigns aimed at our representatives in all levels of government. We now have to start the long process of thank you notes! We should shortly be hearing about our own application to the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. It can’t come soon enough because we’re in the midst of
revamping one project, Isaiah’s Dream – a Parade of Poets, creating a „process“ type work called After the Wall, and resuming work on Black Gold – the Passion of Aleijadinho, the Michelangelo of Brazil. We are struggling with bookings because most of our clients are government funded and have suffered terrible cuts in budget and staffs, but we continue to believe we will develop new clients or find a way to work with old clients, so we can continue to take meaningful theatre to under-served audiences. We are, after all, the „Dinosaurs surviving the crunch„ (Stephen Sondheim, Company).