Thursday, April 03, 2003

Come On and Chant with Me: "A.R.T., A.R.T, A.R.T."

I found a bright spot reading another of Ed Siegel's theatre pieces in the Boston Globe. At least he is acknowledging we exist in his weekly, curious, self-amused ponderings on the Boston theatre community's slow, agonizing slip into a coma and certain death. He is like a young boy experimenting with a magnifying glass and an ant. "Curious," he must jot into his little Boy Scientist Journal, "how can it possibly stay alive?"

The answer, silly, is to do exactly what the ART does.

"Greater Boston presenters and producers who've seen successes this season tend to talk about them with caveats.

'Our subscriptions are way up, and we're operating at around 84 percent of capacity, which is considerably better than last year,' when the ART subscription campaign was launched immediately after Sept. 11, said Robert J. Orchard, executive director of the American Repertory Theatre. 'But it's highly idiosyncratic. We had a change in leadership, so there was more media attention. And we were reaching out to our subscribers.

'If those things weren't happening, I think we would be in big trouble,' Orchard said. 'We're putting on progressive work, in a difficult environment. There's a niche for that, and it's one we're continuing to develop. I think you're seeing a lot of institutions refining and redefining their brands, if you will.' "

Since when is Cambridge a difficult environment for progressive work? I think the last part of his statement is more to the heart of the matter. They are developing their value to the community that already goes there, trying to keep thier fan base loyal. I look at the ART as the premiere marketing machine of this town, not as the premiere theatrical company.

I don't begrudge Ed Seigel for giving them props were the credit is due. However, between his last article and this one, combined with his reviews, I believe that he is giving the public the impression that if they have money to spend on theatre, they cannot go wrong if they see something at the ART.