Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Will Stackman wrote a response to me on Theatre Mirror, so did Ronan Noone. I thought I should respond to Mr. Stackman because he kind of missed my point. Here is my response. (You can read his response on the Mirror's Mere Opinions section as well.)

Hi Larry,
In response to Will Stackman, I thought I would just send a follow up to my Mere Opinion.

First, a quote...
"Local theatre hasn't risen to the occasion, and probably won't. The Lysistrata reading--unfortunately held on the same night as the IRNE Awards-- was underattended earlier this month. Even Improv troupes seem to be shying away from political commentary. Maybe ISebastiani, the Commedia group which has been lurking in the background for the last decade, will find a way to work something into their upcoming shows. Their winter effort was a successful if uneven rendering of a potentially feminist scenario, but these traditionalists will probably stay mired in the 16th Century. Other's won't have the same historical excuse." - Will Stackman, Aisle Say 2003

It was a little strange to me that Mr. Stackman did not find any agreement with me, since he is partly one of the reasons I wrote my statement... but more on that later.

Please read my Mere Opinion again and see that I went out of my way to acknowledge that we have an extreme amount of talent in this town. I see the plays you are talking about, Will. I know they are out there. I know some of the playwrights. In fact, I am one of the playwrights. Like Dan Millstein and William Donnely, I am also one of the producers. I also think Boston Playwrights Theatre and Kate Snodgrass are the equivalent of Mother Theresa in this town.

I did not "ignore" the the dozens of new plays that were done here. That would be like me stating that Mr. Stackman's response leaves out the fact that the Huntington Theatre Company has commissioned three local playwrights including John Kuntz and Melinda Lopez. Or how about the new Devenaugh Theatre at the Piano Factory with their Dragonfly Festival in which a whole batch of new plays receive semi-workshop like stagings. And don't forget Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans. All of these are positive things.

His response suggests that the major media outlets, including Bill Marx, are not seeing enough of small theatre. I wholeheartedly agree and I have said so on the Theatermirror before. More specifically, I also think that one of the things lacking in this town is an alternative paper that would cover the smaller theatre scene seriously. The Phoenix just can't seem to bring themselves to do it. In Seattle we had the Seattle Weekly and The Stranger, both equivalents of the Phoenix here. However those papers were not above seeing all of the small theatre they could. Once again, they don't have to like it all, (and if the Stranger didn't like it...look out,) in fact some of it is not always good. But at least the Weekly provided an alternative to the weirdly anti-theatre Living Arts sections of the Times and the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

The web revolution is helping. Though critics often slam Theatermirror, it is obvious that they read it. One of the most exciting things to happen to the New York Times Theatre Section is the addition of Reader's Reviews. Check it out. Maybe the Globe will ad something similar. Although, I hope that they police it enough to keep it from turning into the joke that Amazon's reader reviews section has become.

Please everybody, don't read my previous call to action as what's wrong with us. Read it as how can we can possibly improve here.

Few of the scripts Mr Stackman mentions address current events. Or maybe he thinks that people shouldn't attempt that. However, a look at his critical writings over the past year would suggest otherwise. More than a few times over the past year Will Stackman has lamented on his Weblog, "And Then I Saw' and in his reviews in Aisle Say that theatre artists were not responding to the current political crisis or the war in Iraq. So here we have two very different critics....(Marx and Stackman,) each saying that they wish people would step up to the plate and tackle these issues. In fact, that was one of the reasons I was incited to write what I did.

Ronan Noone wrote that the Los Angeles Times mentioned "Lepers" as originating in Boston. And that is an incredible step in the right direction. But the media coverage around "Sin," would be the equivalent of the New York Times having covered the original Boston Playwrights Theatre production of the play. I do not remember that happening, but if it did, please correct me.

We are talking about a town in which the two anchor theatres, and the Boston Playwright's theatre would shrivel up and blow away without their university endowments and university owned theatre properties. We are also talking about a town where Speakeasy, Lyric, Sugan and others went into an outright state of panic when Equity came calling with demands that they start paying up about a year ago. Statements were made to the press about them not being able to continue.

Caroline Ellis seems to know what I am talking about in her response.
But, hey, if people think things are just groovy, then maybe I have to reexamine my thinking.
Because, after all, these are my mere opinions

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