Blogs of Fury, Part One

David Cote is a theater professional and a critic for Time Out New York. He also is, sorta, kinda, a blogger. He’s written a piece about his 10 ways to “fix” New York theater, and most of it is really smart and really grand.

Point by point…

1. The Public should expand – Totally.
2. Off-off Broadway should unionize – I’m down. I’m cool with unions.
3. Non-Profit Heads should retire – That’s fine, I don’t really care either way.

4. Fringe Festival should curate –

I have a lot of problems with the festival, the same ways I have a lot of problems with my family. I can describe the very ways that it works and doesn’t work, I could make you a bullet-point sheet of the strengths and weaknesses, but I’m doing that as a member of the community for the last five years. It’s an evolving process, the festival is different now than it was ten years ago, it’s even different now than it was *three* years ago.

Now, I’m all for having a more curated festival. You are running the risk of seeing some very rough stuff every year when you head downtown. You are also gonna see some strange and amazing plays, and it is worth while to check out *both*. When you have a load-in and load-out of 15 minutes, then every production company has to look at their show as if it’s being done in a children’s library, where all you have is actors, costumes, maybe a couple of set pieces, and a great script.

There aren’t gonna be blood spurts, there won’t be cool lighting and sets and costumes, these show are all in their rawest forms. And that’s good. It means you get to see, at its most basic level, what an actor, a writer and a director do, removed from all of the other tech elements. If you hate most of what you see, then you have to admit just how much of the rest of it is important to you.

Now that’s my only quibble. Cote calls the festival “trivial and craptastic”. 200+ shows a year, for 13 years, over 2000 productions, a lot of them moving into rep or off-Broadway, and he feels okay calling it “trivial”. This is one of the smartest critics in New York, it’s hard for me to believe that he didn’t choose these words carefully.

5. Bloggers should flame more – More on this later.

6. Subscribers Explore. Yes, after calling the Fringe Festival “Craptastic”, Cote goes on to berate the audiences for not allowing themselves to be captivated by difficult or strange works. It’s not that I disagree with him, but it’s strange to me that an audience member should shut up and try harder when they’re buying $180 tickets to the Met, but the $15 ticket to the nonsensical dance piece at the Flamboyan isn’t worth anyone’s time.

From our perspective, way down here in downtown (which is strange to write since a lot of us live in Astoria and Inwood now…) is that if you’re gonna have the balls to charge outrageous prices for tickets, it’s your responsibility to educate as you express, that you should spend the energy and time making the pieces work for your audiences. Shit, we’re charging nothing, and we don’t expect our audiences to get everything we do without a little help.

I mean… usually that help is “beer” more than “theatrical post-graduate classes”, but still…

7. Architects Build – Okay, I’m cool. I doubt this is gonna save theater, but I like cool buildings.

8. Signature- Hire Wallace Shawn – OH HELL YEAH! One of our greatest playwrights in America. Without him, we wouldn’t have Mac Rogers. And by “we”, I mean “Me and a couple hundred of our friends”.

9. Composers be more innovative – I agree with this entirely, as I’m sure my friends would be shocked to hear. I’ve written the music for four full musicals, as well as a bunch of other stuff, and I’m a hopeless Pop apologist… but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could do more, and do stranger. I’ve always written to a deadline, which is the life of the freelancer, and so I’ve never had the opportunity to do an expansive strange score.

More on the blog comment later today.