Thoughts on the Barnard "Rachel Corrie" Panel
(To be read after reading the excellent highlights on Playgoer, to which I have little of substance to add.)
In no particular order:
1. John "J'accuse!" Heilpern is my new favorite theater journalist. He spoke of being radicalized by his reporting on the Corrie debacle, and like any convert, he's got the righteous zeal. (Check out his article on the subject in the New York Observer.) John, will you come to my Passover seder? We'll have real wine this year.
2. Interestingly, no one - not the panelists, not the audience - seems that enthused about My Name is Rachel Corrie as a play. People spoke about being moved by Rachel's words and her life, but all I remember hearing about the play are comments like "not formally challenging" and "not radical." I teach a graduate class in artistic and managerial decision-making, and my dramaturgy students dismissed the play as "sentimental"; one said that she wished My Name is Rachel Corrie was as "out there" as she'd been led to believe by the NYTW controversy. As one of the apparent few who have read the play, I also have conflicting opinions about it; some of it is wonderfully poetic and dramatic, and some of it reads like your worst diary entry. I find it mind-boggling that this play in particular could cause such an uproar in the theater community and become a flashpoint for issues of self-censorship, artistic leadership/cowardice, and the responsibility of the theater in times of political turmoil. Ah, well - you defend political theater with the play you have, not the play you wish you had.
3. Irrelevant but true: from the back row, Greg Mosher and Michael Cerveris look remarkably similar. I kept expecting Greg to whip out a tiny white coffin and a guitar. Instead, he unleashed a devastating attack on the NYTW defenders, demanding again and again to know when the decision was made to cancel the play and insisting that Jim Nicola needed to be held accountable. Greg was one of the few who had experienced the pressures of running a non-profit theater, and he cut NYTW no slack. If your fellow artistic directors can't support you, you're out of line.
4. Hey, panel audience - there's not so much a fine line between "asking a question" and "delivering a ten-minute dissertation." If y'all can't get to the question in the thirty seconds, then you don't, in fact, have a question. Don't make the panel moderator lose her mind.
5. Is the non-profit theater model dead? Its demise has been announced in several of my graduate classes, and at least one panel member pronounced an end to non-profit theater in the course of the Corrie discussion. As I see more and more institutional conservatism in the selection and production of new plays and musicals, I am beginning to think that a new model is urgently needed. But what is it? Any model I can come up with involves either artists working for free/real real cheap or some sort of donation structure. Anyone else working on this question?