Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Commonwealth Shakespeare Opens Tonight - You Can Help

Nothing has been more thrilling in the last few years than to see the throngs of people crowding the Boston Common to see the free performances by Commonwealth Shakespeare.

Geoff Edgers has followed up a report of a few months ago, with a new and more detailed report of the downsizing of the annual outdoor production of the Bard.

When I posted about this topic back in March, I was puzzled. The Commonwealth Shakespeare productions are major cultural events that draws over 100,000 people to see free Shakespeare. The fact that between corporate and private donations the cost cannot be offset is mind boggling.

I am greatly sympathetic, because I do not pretend to have ever been in a position where I have had to deal with such a project. However, looking from the outside I just think it's weird. It would be one thing if the shows were not attracting an audience, but anybody who has ever attended can attest to its popularity across the entire socioeconomic, racial and geographic spectrum.

I hope that they will be able to overcome these problems.

As I said in March, and I have reiterated several times, we can help. We can donate. I already have, you can do so here. If you attend the show, or have attended the show in the past, consider making a donation, it sounds cliched, but no amount is too small.

Let's not go backwards.

4 comments:

Thomas Garvey said...

Oh, come off it, buddy! "Nothing has been more thrilling in the last few years" than the COMMONWEALTH SHAKESPEARE SHOWS? I hate to tell you this, but I dozed off in two, and mentally went over every feature of my wristwatch in another. These are not "major cultural events" - they're major pseudo-cultural events, something else entirely. Of course, I know, they could be a lot worse - director Steven Mahler has an eye for pageant, pacing, and inventive horseplay. But as Shakespeare, let's be honest - they simply suck; often hobbled by minor TV and media stars given major roles they can't handle (cast, one is forced to imagine, with an eye toward the director's own movie and TV ambitions) and conceived as a kind of middlebrow timefiller (Shakespeare Chardonnay, if you will), they're right now an utter waste of our tax and charitable dollars. Done smaller, done right, done by somebody else, they could be wonderful. But please stop giving them your money and try to dissuade anyone else from giving them any, too.

Art said...

Hey Thomas,

I would ask that if you are going to comment here, please don't beat around the bush. Don't sugarcoat it. Tell us exactly what you think.

:)

But at least quote me properly in the comments section of my own blog.

I wrote: "Nothing has been more thrilling in the last few years than to see the throngs of people crowding the Boston Common to see the free performances by Commonwealth Shakespeare."

It is thrilling, and I don't want to see that momentum stopped.

When I have posted about this issue before I have been clear that I don't find the productions completely successful either, in fact, I have been bored by some also.

If you didn't point out that it could be a lot worse, I would have.

However, who says things can't be changed. Why can't one want the productions to be better and want many people to come?

I seem to remember you saying many times, something to the effect of:

"Hamlet should play in every city, every night, for the rest of time."

I don't know if you have read it, but I think you would like the Slate article by Bryan Curtis about Shakespeare in the Park, here is the opening paragraph:

"Shakespeare in the Park is the most culturally affirming rite of summer. No other family outing is as likely to smother mom, dad, and junior in a soothing intellectual balm, a sense of having done something important. It's ironic, then, that part of the appeal of Shakespeare in the Park is its negligible demand on the brain. One need not know anything about Shakespeare going in, and, if my experience in Central Park Sunday night is any indication, one will not know much more going out."

Thomas Garvey said...

Just btw, I forgot the one I walked out of - the Adam Rapp "Henry V" (that WAS "Henry V," wasn't it?). And I never actually sat down during "Taming of the Shrew" - I just slowed down briefly, then kept walking.

And sorry, but I don't find it "thrilling" that throngs of people come to something free in the park, either. Instead, I'd be thrilled if they boycotted this tripe and demanded something better. That would mean the city was actually getting some real kultcha somewhere.

And if you want to give money to support free Shakespeare, how about sponsoring free tickets to the Huntington? Or even Actors' Shakespeare Project? Frankly, almost every small theater in this town is more worthy of your support than the annual Shakespeare on the Common extravaganza. I repeat - do not - DO NOT - SUPPORT COMMONWEALTH SHAKESPEARE.

Art said...

"And if you want to give money to support free Shakespeare, how about sponsoring free tickets to the Huntington? Or even Actors' Shakespeare Project?"

I can't argue with that.