Monday, January 11, 2010

Terry Teachout - On What TCG Numbers Really Tell Us...

Terry Teachout, Drama Ctitic for the Wall Street Journal takes a deeper look back at the statistics TCG keeps on the Most Produced Plays at member theaters.

He mines the data, which goes back to 1994, and comes up with a list of eleven plays that are the most produced from 2001-Present. He makes some some interesting observations.

Then he goes back and comes up with an even larger list of "the 76 most frequently produced plays of the past decade." What did he find?

For me, though, the really big surprise was the dog that didn't bark. Only one of the top 11 plays, "The Glass Menagerie," is a classic, and it was written in 1944. The others were all written between 1994 and 2006. And in addition to "The Glass Menagerie," only five classics by playwrights other than Shakespeare—"The Importance of Being Earnest," "Our Town," "Private Lives," "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Tartuffe"—made it onto the longer list.

As for the celebrated playwrights of the past who didn't make the cut, the list is alarmingly long. No Samuel Beckett, no Bertolt Brecht, no Anton Chekhov, no Georges Feydeau, no Henrik Ibsen, no William Inge, no Eugène Ionesco, no Arthur Miller, no Clifford Odets, no Eugene O'Neill, no George Bernard Shaw, no Aristophanes or Euripides or Sophocles, no Rodgers and Hammerstein or Frank Loesser or Lerner and Loewe . . . no history, in other words.


Thomas Garvey said...

Wow. No wonder the Parabasis crowd is so against Shakespeare - he's the last classical author left standing.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're doing this round-up, Art, and am interested to see the results.

For the record, if you go to the TCG page where Teachout got his "data", it also explicitly states that the "numbers are as reported to TCG at press time by its member theatres nationwide".

Doing a quick search on their site of TCG Member theatres in Boston yields: Lyric, SpeakEasy, Huntington, Company 1, Boston Theatre Works, and Wheelock. 6 Theatres in Boston are registered members of TCG AND report productions - several of them clearly aren't reporting their productions consistently either.

As Garvey said on Hub, the smaller/younger companies (none of whom are reporting) skew even more towards new work. But nonetheless, Teachout's making his case on a lot of shaky data. If the percentage of reporting theatres is this small for Boston (6 out of at least 50 consistently producing companies), it's likely off for other cities as well.

Regardless - will be interested to see what you come up with!