Friday, September 03, 2004

Does Anybody Have Any Idea What Terry Byrne is Talking About?

Terry, Terry, Terry. Your recent tepid tirade at Boston Theatre has all the excitement and chastisement as Lynne Cheney's speech at the Republican convention. I read your article: "Hub Theatres Should Live More Dangerously" and I thought I would write you as a concerned outsider. I don’t want you to do anything to hurt yourself or those around you.

My inclination, after reading the article’s headline was to say, "Good for you!." "Look at our Terry asserting herself!" However, once I finished the entire article, I had second thoughts. Maybe, I pondered, Terry Byrne should learn to live more dangerously.

You open with a chastisement about 4 works that won't be premiering in Boston. Well, the following works that are opening at regional theatres from Chicago to LaJolla won't be playing in Boston either: Lost Land by Stephen Jeffreys (featuring John Malkovich), The Pain and the Itch by Bruce Norris, Finishing the Picture by Arthur Miller,(Adaptation) A Doll House by Rebecca Gilman, Brooklyn Boy by Donald Marguiles, Vesuvius by Lucinda Coxson, and On the Mountain by Christoper Shinn.

Terry, what is the point? What is your definition of "daring"? Or "living dangerously?" Do you want new plays that are premiering here, or do you want more award winners that have had success in other cities?
I cannot believe that a serious article with such a challenging headline would include the sentence: "North Shore Music Theatre has become the area's most daring programmer, combining artistically rewarding pieces (the brilliant ``Pacific Overtures'') with a commitment to world premieres of musicals." I am really hoping you were being sarcastic, but I don’t think the rest of the article supports that kind of interpretation.

I think North Shore is a fantastic regional musical theatre, but.... Beauty and The Beast? Chicago? Even Tom Jones, which you don't mention, was first workshopped at Theatre Royal York in 1998.

It gets better though. You follow up a couple of paragraphs later: "But it's primarily the smaller theaters in town that take the biggest risks. Sugan Theatre Company will stage `Gagarin Way,' which was a hit in London a few years back." Isn't that sentence a paradox of a sort. A risk is staging something that was a proven hit? Terry, I am trying to follow you, but it is a little hard.

Again, I mean nothing disparaging against the theatre companies mentioned in the article, all of them do top notch work. For instance, you mention Company One, and I agree that they present more daring offerings, but you use their production of plays by Stephen Guirgis as an example of their daring, (plays that garnered worldwide attention and extended runs in New York and London,). What you should have mentioned is their courage in producing A Clockwork Orange, for which they took massive critical lumps.

Terry, my point is, I don’t think you really believe your original thesis for the article. Indeed, for an article with such a tone of chastisement for the theatre community in general, you go on to praise just about every company in Downtown Boston. And in case you’ve forgotten someone, you end the article with your awards for "FOUR WHO DARED:" (which kind of sounds like a forgotten war movie starring John Wayne.)

You include the following as examples of daring shows to have been mounted... Bat Boy, Bad Dates, and Sweeney Todd. No offense to the Huntington, Speakeasy, or New Rep, but the real daring parties were the original producers of those shows in other cities.

Maybe you should read up on excitement and daring. Want to read about daring? Check out this story about the House Theatre in Chicago:

What does Allen, the 26 year old Artistic Director of the house then do with his new fame? He stages a completely experimental and risky play. With the results being received very tepidly:
The Sun Times and…

The Chicago Tribune

Terry, maybe don’t try to be so inflammatory, it doesn't suit you. Deep in your heart, it would appear that you don't want to be controversial. And that is not a bad thing. Risky theatre and original work isn't for everyone, not even for some of those who produce it. And, most of it isn't really good either.

If you want a lesson in living dangerously go to Seattle or New York or Chicago for a season. I guarantee you won't like it. You see Terry, some people find going to see new work thrilling, but I doubt you really do. It sounds to me that what you are REALLY asking for in this article is for our theatre companies to do more of the plays you have heard about, but haven't been able to see. I don’t want to tell you that I know what’s best for you, but believe me, going to see "dangerous" work would make you irritable, you would start to hate it and then I am afraid you would take it out on everybody else.

As for dangerous theatre, step aside and leave it to those critics who really want to see us become a world class theatre town. Who really believe in us, and don’t just want to see our talents put to use solely by reproducing what has been hot last season in New York or London.

If you set the bar for living dangerously at producing Rebecca Gilman plays that have played in London, and New York then believe me, that is as high as people will reach.

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