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June 11, 2007

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Ian

Hey David,

I'm not that familiar with the Tony awards. But after reading your post I looked them up on Wikipedia and there seems to be no category for off-off, or independent theatre.

In Toronto, we have the Dora's, which have and indie theatre category. How does it work in NYC - in terms of recognizing the off-off stuff?

Thanks,

Ian

David

Your Doras are more evolved than our Tonys, which only recognize Broadway productions(plus 1 award for a regional organization). There are several other awards this time of the year -- the Obies, the Lucille Lortels, the Drama Desk, the (recent) NYIT awards -- which consider Off and Off-Off. Every year there's a hue and cry that the Tonys are not an accurate representation of the American theater. That's absolutely true. But even if the Tony voters (785 of them) went to see every single of the more than 600 Broadway, Off and Off-Off productions every year in this town, you know what? The Tonys still would not represent American theater, since what may be happening in Portland, OR or rural Mississippi may have nothing to do with NYC theater. So in the end, the Tonys are an exclusive club, theater is local and while (like sex) everyone does it, everyone does it their own way. It would be great if the American Theatre Wing, which produces the Tonys, could take a broader view of the art form and give an award to an "emerging" Off-Off company or playwright, but I'm not holding my breath. Still, if the ceremony were to be radically re-imagined to make for good TV (and hence a good advertisement of theater to the public), then maybe a broader view of theater might be introduced. I know some folks at the Wing and might draw up some proposals about the future of the Tonys. In the meantime, all the carping about how the Tonys exclude Off Broadway is a little shortsighted and pointless.

ThePaganTemple

I like the idea of PBS featuring more Broadway plays, as well as HBO. That would be just the thing to get more Americans interested in drama.

The reason most of them aren't interested in it now-and feel free to hate me for saying this, but it's true-is most Americans don't give a rats ass about musicals, and unfortunately when you think Broadway, Tony Awards, etc., that is the first thing that comes to mind with most people.

Fairly or unfairly,in the minds of most Americans Broadway seems to place an emphasis on these types of productions, and for the most part, they are shit to most people. True, there are exceptions (The Producers comes to mind).

However, people wouldn't walk or drive three blocks to see The Sound of Music, South Pacific, Rent, Cats, etc.

I'm not saying Broadway should cease and desist with these productions, as if they would listen to me.

I'm just saying that if you want to attract a wider general audience, then the kind of things that would be more likely to go over on television would be really good dramas or comedies.

Leave the singing and dancing to the prom and the shower.

David

I suppose it's true that if you were to poll Americans in general, they may not place "Broadway musical" at the top of their desired forms of entertainment, but that's all the tourists who come to NYC want to see. A musical can run for years on tourist dollars, but plays flop all the time. Once in a while a play will make its money back, but that's only with a top-billed star. I don't think that people, in general, are MORE inclined to see plays and comedies, though--especially not for $80 to $100 a seat. Rock and sports events, sure, they'll pay top dollar for those, but plays? For several decades now, the culture of playgoing has eroded severely. To reverse that trend requires several factors coinciding at once: exceptional plays, affordable prices, widespread media coverage, dissemination of plays through mass media, superior marketing, and charismatic, authoritative critics. No one factor will change things. I'd say that it's impossible to achieve in NYC. Perhaps better to decamp for a smaller community and try to put the plan in action.

PatrickKelley

I wish that could happen. I would enjoy a good play myself. I remember a time when a semi-professional acting troupe performed A Midsummers Nights Dream at one of the local schools, and I was hooked.

I also saw The Homecoming (don't know if it was the Pinter play or not, but I'm guessing it was)and fell in love with the female lead just on the strength of her performance. But I was engrossed by the overall production as much as her acting. But damn, was she ever good-I met her a couple of weeks later, became friends with her, and didn't even know it was the same woman until she started talking about it, then I remembered her name.

I think you are probably correct about the price ranges being a problem, and of course a top-notch actor won't appear without so much money, so it might be a vicious cycle.

It wouldn't be an overnight transformation, of course, but a good series of really good plays presented on PBS, or some other such outlet might be just the ticket. Hell, maybe even a series of live broadcasts from Broadway might help.

Maybe I'm overly enthusiastic and optimistic, but I think with the right format it could even work on network television, depending on what time of the year they were broadcast, and night of the week.

Surely there are enough people sick enough by now of the reality programming crap that it could have an impact.

Things go in cycles, they say, so maybe that kind of resurgence is in the cards. Unfortunately, I think the major drawback might well be the producers of musicals who might resent the intrusion of playgoers dollars into some other venue than their own niche, which I am sure is a jealously guarded one.

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