Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bing, Bang, Clickety-Clack... Isherwood's famous Pig!

Isaac at Parabasis has the directory of his Pig Farm project, in which a bunch of bloggers got comps to see the play.

The crew of bloggers' responses to Kotis's new play at the Roundabout are linked at Isaac's site, along with his own response and they are all worth reading and comparing.

However, aside from dealing with the power of criticism and the aesthetics of Charles Isherwood, the central issues of much of our theatrical and blogoshperical handwringing seem only to be adressed in a few places:

Ian Hill at Collisionwork touches lightly on it here:

I went to Pig Farm because, well, it was free, and more especially, it was by Greg Kotis, so it was one of the few pieces of theatre I'd bother spending more than $20 for if I could afford it (which I can't)....

Oh, and for those of you who do have the playgoing dollar to spend uptown and on a worthwhile show, I've been given a code to save you some bucks.

Freeman presents it here:

Second is that ticket prices are absolutely restrictive. Unlike movie reviews, which are read for water cooler talk as much as actual dollar guidance, reviews of plays are guiding a far greater allocation of resources. $50 tickets to see a play, even one as entertaining as PIG FARM, is too much for most of the audience for which PIG FARM is written

And then Joshua at the Dojo dives right in:

Added to the fact, however, is that though I was allowed to be comped, (and may I thank the lovely folks for that) I couldn’t help but notice the cost of the tickets to see this play. Tickets run from fifty dollars to over sixty-five, in addition to a $1.25 facility fee.

If the tickets cost twenty dollars, I’d recommend this play without a thought. Maybe even at 25 dollars, I might recommend it. But not at fifty or sixty dollars. And that’s another problem. The folks that will enjoy PIG FARM the most aren’t the ones who are sitting in the audience for an Off Broadway show. That specific audience, one who would help the writer and director find the soul of just not that play but possibly their next play, won’t be in the house watching. That audience cannot afford to come to an Off-Broadway show. That audience won’t spend fifty bucks for a show. They’ll wait till it comes to their university or community playhouse and then they’re go, spend twelve dollars or so and laugh and laugh, enjoying it thoroughly.

Joshua is actually forgetting one option...

You see, that hypothetical audience will most likely just turn on On-Demand and watch Clerks II for about the cost of the service charge for the theatre tickets.


Thomas Garvey said...

Is this really the best these bloggers can do - complain about the ticket price (and actually try to "gauge" the quality of the show against it)? That's so naive it's pathetic. Send your gripe to the landlords of the theater, kids - or better yet, read up on wage/price disease (which the Internet only exacerbates, technophiles!). But don't confuse these concerns with the quality of the work in question. Such juvenilia make you wonder just how interesting all these theater blogs will prove to be . . .

YS said...

Hi Thomas,

I love reading your posts on the WBUR blog. And I am not sure with things going as they are there that you will by continuing, but I hope so.

I really don't understand your comments at all.

With regards to your initial question. I would ask, "Is this this the Best YOU can do."

Your comments are really the bored, cliched, unsubstantiated and uninformed charges that are lobbed at blogs all the time.

Remember the BEST part about blogs is that nobody has to read them. The INTERESTING part about blogs is that people do.

The Pig Farm project Isaac intitiated was in response the wildly diverging reviews of the play from the NYT and the WSJ.

I just noted that three of the Bloggers, who seemed to enjoyed the quality, brought up the ticket price of 66.00 as a possible factor in people not being able to see it.

I pointed this out, not because I thought it was an aesthetically important point. (You can click any of the links on my right hand side and read all the reviews you want.) I pointed it out because it was something that stood out to me.

Here were three people, who liked the show, but would not have seen it at a 66.00 ticket price.

For somebody who once pointed out,( not on a blog, but in a Boston Globe review,) that the theatre audiences at a regional theatre being full of "nice white liberals." Your point then was that seeing an August Wilson play was refreshing and enhanced by seeing the play in different venue than the Huntington Theatre, with a more multicultural audience.

Why would you choose to mention that? Was it because you thought the audience demographic somehow postively affected the quality of your theatrical experience? Though I think "nice white liberals" is a little like a lightning rod comment, especially when it was given during an election year, I still think your point was valid. And whether you like it or not, socio-economic. I'm sure while you were penning it, you didn't think it juvenalia.



Thomas Garvey said...

You know, you gotta get over that "nice white liberals" line - or if you can't get over it, at least quote it accurately: I wrote about seeing August Wilson at the Huntington "with ALL THE OTHER nice white liberals" - i.e., I considered myself a "nice white liberal" (well, maybe not so nice, but definitely white and liberal). It was, it seemed to me - naive creature that I am - a sly little joke aimed at provoking other white theater fans out of their comfort zone. To you, it was "a lightning rod" - for what, exactly, I've really no idea.

I'll tell you another amusing story about that comment - at least one other person was as sensitive to it as you were, and interpreted it even more creatively. I received a sweet, well-intentioned email from a local woman (and writer) who said that the comment had been bothering her for days; in fact, she "couldn't get it out of her head." It was rather obvious - although never stated directly - that to her, the comment was vaguely anti-Semitic, of all things; apparently "nice white liberals" + "Huntington" = JEWS! (EEK!) She even said that she "and her friends" were always hoping to see "more black faces" (!) at the Huntington, but were always disappointed when the theater (predictably) was instead filled with - yup - nice white liberals. So I simply re-iterated the point the original line was intended to make: I asked her, "Well, if a black theater company in Roxbury staged "The Diary of Anne Frank," would you and your friends drive to Roxbury and buy a ticket?" This question received the rather pointed response of "Oh. I see what you mean."

That lady's sudden self-awareness endeared her to me no end. Other people have been - well, less endearing. I'm by now a veteran of racial and political smears. So far - in just two years of reviewing - I've been accused of just about every form of prejudice in the book; it's the knee-jerk response of P.C. people whose bad taste I've attacked. A Sugan Theater board member accused me in a letter to the Globe of being anti-Irish when I pointed out that company's ongoing mediocrity (I am, of course, Irish). Another writer accused me of having no sympathy for gays after my negative review of a lame Dusty Springfield script(unknown to him, I'm gay). Recently, on the WBUR arts blog, someone accused me of racism over my review of Michael Haneke's "Cache." I've been called anti-Native American, anti-feminist . . . really, the list goes on and on and on.

So give me a break, okay? As for the blogger who wrote:

"If the tickets cost twenty dollars, I’d recommend this play without a thought. Maybe even at 25 dollars, I might recommend it. But not at fifty or sixty dollars."

- What can I say? Did the director or the actors, or the designer or composer, set the price of admission? I assure you, no. (And just by the way, a top ticket price of $66 is - well, actually cheap for an Off-Broadway show.) Comparing the cost of a theater ticket to that of a mass-audience vehicle like a movie or an (illegally downloaded) song is NOT an aesthetically valid point - it is, instead, roughly like saying "This show would be great if you could play it on your i-pod, but you can't, dude, so it sucks to the max!"

But wait - aren't ticket prices too high? Yes, of course; but guess what - they're going to be even higher tomorrow! The only time a critic need concern himself (or herself) about ticket prices is if the tickets are clearly out of line with current economic realities (i.e., if "Pig Farm" cost as much as - well - a Madonna concert!). For "Pig Farm," the issue is clearly irrelevant.

But thanks for correcting me on "juvenalia" ("juvenilia" - am I unconsciously channeling Alan Bennett?).

YS said...

O.K. O.K. I'll get over it.

By the way, at the time, I agreed with everything you were saying in that review, including the predominance of caucasians at most of the Huntington shows I wrote the following at my blog:

"I do applaud Mister Garvey's attempt to convey the communal experience he had while watching a play that is usually seen with predominantly white audiences. And he is right to point it out for two reasons. First, it is the truth. Second it is informing his readers that they can experience great theatre beyond the ART and the Huntington.I think Mr. Wilson would agree that Up You Mighty Race would be the ideal place to see his work performed."

So, we are actually on the same page.

As to the comment about recommending or not recommending the play based on cost, I think that blogger was trying to make the same point about the play you were with the August Wilson play. You wrote that with the multicultural audience that you felt a more visceral building to a climax. The blogger was trying say that he felt Pig Farm would be experienced better with a different audience. With you, the barrier is geography. With him, it is price.

YS said...

Just wanted to add one thing real quick.

I hope you don't think that comments about ticket prices consume all of the blogosphere's postings.

I really do blog about a wide variety of things to do with theatre, as do other people.

With regards to the above comments, I would suggest you check out Don R. Hall's post, "How Color Blind Are We Anyway?":


Thomas Garvey said...

I know I'm beating a dead horse, but I still don't think you get it. These bloggers aren't encouraging people to GO; they're giving people an excuse NOT to go. There's a world of difference between their comments and mine. I was trying to tweak class sensibility; they're essentially re-inforcing it (reverse snobbism is still a form of snobbery). And if you read further in these blogs, their sheer silliness gets worse:

(from Matthew Freeman's blog:)

"So...what did I think of PIG FARM? It's a lot of fun . . . I laughed my ass off. I would. I'm 30 . . . Basically, there crowd for this play (sic) didn't really get it. I don't blame them. It wasn't precious, wasn't meaningful and there weren't any songs or moments of flashy stagecraft. It's a big fatty cheeseburger from a Gourmet restaurant, cooked bloody red. It's for those of us that . . . don't make reservations for French cuisine each weekend. It's a play for the kind of people I WISH were going to the theatre more often."

Uh . . . what? "Those of us who don't make reservations for French cuisine each weekend"? Who does this thirty-year-old kid think he's kidding? (Hold the bearnaise, Francois, I'm off to the theatah!) Maybe theatre is better off dying if this is the kind of yahoo it has to attract in order to live . . .

YS said...

Hi Again Thomas,

Not that it means you have to agree with him, but that "yahoo," just had a critical success with his play, "The Most Wonderful Love" in New York.

Here is just one of the reviews:


The theatre blogosphere is not a perfect medium, but there are thoughtful, creative, and critical minds functioning in it.

I still think you are misrepresenting Freeman's post. Remember, he did preface it by saying that the post was really going to be about the fact that he liked it, but he wouldn't probably have been able to see it without the free tickets. (I also think you should probably comment at his own blog as I think it would not only be a lively discussion, I think he could answer better than I.)

Another blogger, Garret Eisler at the Playgoer, spent more time on a critical anlalysis of Pig Farm, but also add that he thought the play is the type of thing that would be received better at a bar-type atmosphere.

There are lots of theatre blogs out there, if you think they are waste of time, you don't have to read them.

By the way, when will I see your blog? C'mon, you know you want to. :)

YS said...

And I do understand your point about class sensibility.

However, let's say Freeman were to see Pig Farm at some barroom theatre, a place where tickets are perhaps 15 dollars, and then write the following: "How refreshing to see this play with an audience other than the stuffy, aging, subscriber audience at the Roundabout. With this younger crowd the laughs were able to come more freely...etc."

Would that make the difference?

Thomas Garvey said...

Sigh. It's sad to think a playwright could be such a bad critic, but I suppose a lot of critics are bad playwrights. As for the silly ageism of the young, I suppose that too is a permanent part of the landscape.

YS said...

Silly Ageism is a permanent part of the landscape. But so is rejecting the ideas of the young and the passionate out of hand.

I am starting to understand your misconceptions about the blogosphere.

Freeman is not a critic, he is a blogger. He comments on things from Equity codes for showcases to political situations, to his apartment searches.

I have posted many times about the lack of true pure critical voices on the internet or in the blogosphere. Mostly, theatrical bloggers are like me, artists functioning in the world of producing smaller theatre.

As for "these bloggers," remember, they were talking about things you find interesting: ("tweaking class sensibility," "the fly-by new york lead,") long before you were writing about them.

However, we extend credit to you nonetheless, when you write them.



As I have demonstrated in this string of comments, I have always pointed out the value of your insights, even if I found some things disagreeable.

Whereas, it seems you dismiss not only one blogger, but the entire theatre blogosphere on the basis of something you disagree with in one post.

Who is knee-jerk?