« Commentary Magazine Podcast

The Theater of the Virus

2020-03-19 | 🔗
Terry Teachout, COMMENTARY's critic at large, joins our podcast today to talk about what we're all talking about—and then we veer into some fascinating cultural territory that should prove especially diverting at this moment. To hear some of the songs we're talking about, check out these YouTube links: "Gee Officer Krupke" "Someone in a Tree" "Not a Day Goes By" Give a listen.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Welcome to the Commentary magazine Daily, podcast, five, John PATH towards the editor commentary. With me, as always senior editor. A green waldheim. I jump Senior writer, Christine Rosen from Washington High Christine again those who enter northward from New Jersey, high Noah job, and in
New York's own Washington Heights critic at large Terry teach out today's guest High Terry nice to join. You owe thanks first thanks for being with us and you get to you get to join us for our morning. Complaints about the new reality, Terry, if, if you are venturing outside you are in one of New York's, most stub dynamic. A vivid neighborhoods is the story, is, is it a ghost town like everywhere else is utterly empty? The only thing you can hear from my window is the sound of the softy truck which is sound worth following Iraq written, I haven't, looked out to see if anybody's lining up for it, but other than that everybody's inside. Well, I my son, my nine
son to the playground. Yes, I m sorry, I know I'm not allowed to apparently where I'm not allowed to go outside. That's you know. That seems to be the new dispensation but we are not yet lockdown in New York and we're not in quarantine. So I took him to the flagrant he was like. I'm hungry lie: wait let's, let's go five ice cream truck and I said honey. There, ain't no ice cream, tough trucks everywhere, but apparently we should have just gone in a five miles north of where we word we could have gone to your mother softly truck Terry. There there aren't any in there aren't any on the upper West side. That much like him. That much. I can tell you There are the food courts like the muffin in Bagel, guys on the corner. Those courts are out there I mean it, I thought: that's it. That's not ice cream, but you know that's why these heart, the heartbreaking reality of these. You know these hand to mouth small businesses and that that law
me into the votes of the larger thing I wanted to talk about, which is you know, we're now. Reading the the trouble apparently signed some version of this stimulus thing. Today, this billion trillion dollar stimulus with these direct to two tranches of checks to every American, but what I am reading from economists, macro macro economists, economic journalists, analysis that it's not enough that there we need to directly subsidized businesses they can. They can serve, be ready, two's ramp up So yes said, the stimulus is not enough. There's gonna need to be way more direct subsidies to small businesses, or loans to small businesses, loans to larger companies. Loan the Boeing the auto may everybody said Joe, wiesenthal of who used to be a businessman.
Later. I can't remember where his brow a bull by right said: we need three trillion dollars and stimulus vote against. Some of that would be lonesome would be repaid, and so my my hat my question to you guys is: we are talking about unprecedented direct federal government intervention in the economy and what are the is this just unprecedented and will not be repeated were you know, is this the camels knows in the tent. You know where we are hearing about how this really means. We have to have the universal basic income permanent right that ten, ten thousand dollars a year to every person as a as serve direct payment, and all of that or you know,
whatever like our are, we are we now looking at a role for government in the economy. That is the designer roddam, ultimately of the Bernie Sandinistas nieces were, or is this just a kind of one off ape you wanna? Well I mean there's no question that these kinds of measures, especially when they involve citizens getting money directly from from the government, have a way of sticking around its heart. It's hard to turn off the spigot once it once it starts, and There will be a massive effort to keep it around and I think It's going to be a lot more sympathy for the idea Eve. Probably amongst so some on the centre right at least an extended period of time after this is over. So it's we're gonna come a whole lot closer to a sort of law.
Long term salute socialist fix them when we arrive before it ok now you have. You have a different tack. I think well not exactly two short, my convictions at this point that it is an inflection point. Things will not go back to where they were the way they dont go back to the way they were I'm not sure, but the notion. Adoption of socialist economics, real socialist economics, the assumption of industry by the state, which is what people like build applause your advocating for, is as inefficient as ever. If the objective is to speed up production, for example, of light
David to spin up production, for example, of life, saving ventilators you're, going to find it a lot easier to shift existing production capacity and existing factories for commercial technology. To move on to that, and just to focus on that and that's what we ve been doing, that the invocation of the fence, production act and the marshalling with people like Galen mosques, companies into that objective, as seems to be more efficient and that at this stage than that and in the interim, what we have been doing is in adopting socialist policy, but really libertarian policies were cutting regulations Institute Anti regulations really that prevent medical workers from working across states, reducing the arrests for- and I wrote some of this- is let S old, very troubling. The young notion of we'll be arresting people for theft and burglary.
As of those are really nonviolent offenses, they are only technically nonviolent they're, not victimless, and most of the time they go somewhere else pretty bad, but stuff like prostitution and narcotics. Arrests were basically stopping doing that, allowing restaurants to sell booze in order to keep people in their homes for as long as possible. These are hardly socialistic policies, their form of the stuff that you would see from Cato or reason magazine. So it's as though we're having a socialist moment right now, we manage somehow and low interest low interest, zero interest loans are not socialist policy either right up Christine. Let me let me let me move this amount for different direction, and so this is the libertarian has o tarried. Did you wanna You want to try to say it. I was gonna say it surprises me that we haven't heard the phrase new deal used by anybody.
Because I have a feeling that somewhere along the line, that's going to become a paradigm which is not socialism per se, but is something familiar from american history and the people can use as a way of organizing their thoughts about what we're going to need to do this? This is a really good point, because I think what you know right now, we're all very keen on these stories of people behaving opportunistic leaned selfishly during a crisis. You know the guys who were holding hands entities are entirely paper, for example, but we should be equally vigilant about legislative opportunists at this point. A moment and the people who follow what's going on in Congress need to be on their game, because a lot of what's gonna, be passed legislatively in the next few weeks and months will contain provisions to make some of these things permanent. We saw that was some of it, the child care the credit system and what not we need to keep a very close eye on whether or not as Terry says, there's a kind of law. Scale, long term legislative agenda that will become permanent or whether we do treat this.
As a one off crisis for which we're going to make choices, that we otherwise wooden during a non critical time. Well, so here's the here's, the other libertarian scenario I will then I want to lay out which is which is bizarre. Lee Bleak, although also the opposite, a bleak, and it would work like this. We are shutting down the american and world economy on a bit on the basis of the theory that this is the way to kill off this virus before it does unprecedented human damage right.
There are unprecedented, but really Pulitzer unprecedented in our life in our lifetimes right right. So the odd part about this scenario is that it depends. Despite everybody say, what we're trying to do was flattened the curve and therefore will be wildly successful if there is no catastrophe, if there is no catastrophe, if the catastrophe you know, if we if we aren't ITALY times too or whatever, with aren't mass graves like in IRAN, and all that we can walk round saying this is great. This is great. We did it look at the self sacrifice and we pulled it off or there will be, and then the question will be will when this is like
up and no one, and I as parents of small children Christine like we can tell you that it's already getting pretty onerous living this way and they keep saying. I know you got to stay at got to stay inside like you got to be inside, it's it's may and it's like school is reconvening and and We really need to keep going with this, so we make sure maybe it'll come back and you have and then at some point the possibility of people saying we have been sold even if we sold ourselves a bill of goods, this is not worth the cure. It's is not worth a disease. The chemotherapy is killing the patient. We all understand chemotherapy makes you sick, but the idea is that without the chemotherapy, it'll die right, so
but if the chemotherapy makes you second, that it turns out that you didn't really have cancer or you had stage zero cancer or you had a kind of cancer that takes twenty years to kill you, then people will say well why. Why am I subjecting myself to this horror, and then you can have this thing that we ve all been talked about, which is a decline of faith in institutions that an expertise and all of this. This be exponentially increased faster than the virus and the libertarian consequences of that which our I'm just not listening. Government any more at all. I get my guns. And I'm store my food and I'm gonna drive, however, going to drive, and that is it I am done with you. I'm not gonna pay my taxes, I'm just saying like you, could see three months, this economy
ass by twenty percent, and then the hall are never happens. I mean well thought I might Miami Beach times. One thousand yeah I mean you some of that. But it's an false, a viable proposition. That was really the notion that would we It's this thing didn't happen and therefore it was never going to happen as this is something that will exist in the ether. People believe that, but it's not something that you can actually say as a premise that you can prove. I dont think I I've already seen articles to the effective. If we did this right, it will like? We overreacted yeah right. We know that this right gonna work right, I mean all of us are greatly said this in the last three pockets. The three weeks of this is about is good, is you're gonna get before the public, simply revolts, but I dont know that in the full adhering to these voluntary guidelines I mean I'm not. I've been, I think
such a big country that, yes, some people were evolved and a lot of people want revolt in the idea that this is kind of a national mission to save lives is something that is pretty compelling. But let let's say forget us: ok, let's say it doesnt materialise in Europe. Let's They that it is increasingly appears that there are interesting paradoxes about ITALY, IRAN and China. In terms of the, of their populations and what their health conditions are of their elderly and all of that that aren't duple aren't duplicated in other places and therefore its not just that we don't see the horror but that a lot of places, see the horror I mean NL. We just have to be asked what they would have to be a global sense that, as I say, the cure is worse than the disease
is that we are. We are shutting down economic activity that has terrible health consequences. Overtime at eight talked about this yesterday, the deaths of despair that we have seen over the last decade- are directly related to the financial meltdown of two thousand and nine two thousand and ten, and so who knows like what the consequence and economy contracting as fast as the economy is track will have its own parlous health consequences. Combination with this programme. And I salute- and you know that that beyond with which you have that is, what's unprecedented: that's what people are praising of China there not praising China's capacity fur state owned industry to ramp up production of therapeutic soon ventilators, what their praising
the third area system that can keep you in your house against your will well, and they have that way. It will work in this case and take you to have the capacity to do it well, but they did so in ITALY. It started as a kind of directive, but not enforced by law in force, and in a very quickly when the whole country went on lockdown, there were officers patrolling the street, stopping people and they had to prove unity that they were leaving their home for a reason they could be fined said they vary clearly, when they realise the crisis was, was getting much much worse, very quickly. They did it is law enforcement. And that's that's the question I have about the american situate, and then whether we would how much we would rob against law enforcement actually being used in that way, because right now we are doing this voluntarily- and I agree with no at the three weeks- is gonna kind of tap out most people's patients, intolerance for this special day of young children, but I'm not sure we would be comfortable with that that kind of law enforcement use. What do you know? What's good? You know: what's gonna persuade people,
what they see at the local hospital, because, if everything that were hearing is coming down. The line very shortly does in fact come to pass. The net and if he brought home in the most brutal self, evident way possible to ordinary people that they can't get in. There is no elective surgery. They can't get away asked everything they were told was going to happen, has happened. That would be a very precise. Some event, if it does come to pass, I think that's right, and I think we are talking about this last night, that We have the you know that the testing regime and and and some of the other stuff that that. This is the rationale in some ways has shifted over the last week from you, gotta stay inside, so you don't get sick too. You have to stay inside because the ancillary consequences are going to be
If you get sick, you're gonna overload the hospital system, so part of the reason to avoid getting sick is because the hospital system is not going to be able to bear the load of people getting irresponsibly sick, as opposed to people who get sick through no fault of their own and yeah. But I mean that's part of what I am saying. If, in three weeks this over running, I it sounds ghoulish to say this, but if the emergency rooms are over run. People are gonna start saying. I don't know why. I just went through this hell. What they said was gonna happen hasn't happened so in an odd if it's a terrible thing An odd way. You kind of need, be you'd need to see the the dire consequences for people to continue to live under draconian
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twenty seven years on by God. Please know maybe up like that have been you, ok, rumour and you have appeared with maybe one or two breaks month, We in the magazine for that time most that time right side, you are our critic at large obviously, as people probably know you worthy also, the theatre critic of the Wall Street Journal biographer biographer of Duke Ellington biographer of Louis Armstrong Ape a playwright yourself, a director more recently, So you write on a variety of cultural subjects for four commenter, but I wanted to talk about your last to pieces, the one in our current issue, which right now
as your listening may not be available to you cause we're having a bit of a technical glitch. The April issue, which is which is, bottom line should be? If, if you can't find a very have trouble getting to it, what were fixing it and it should be up momentarily- Terry has a remarkable piece on the on a revival now suspended because everything on Broadway suspended of West Side story, which is also coming back to the screen and a Steven Spielberg remake in December, and it's interesting because all of the cold we'll talk of our time about relevant c and d
our city and everything else is deeply reflected if this in this ground breaking in a bad way groundbreaking or you, Terry Production of website story, something I think almost everybody listening to me probably knows from the movie which, as you know, one of the two or three most successful motion picture. Musicals of all time want ten oscars fifty years ago or sixty years ago, We actually deeply horrifying experts say that everything is now so Terry add TAT, tell us a little bit about this production and why it so I popping a blinding light in the worst possible way. It said it was directed by EVA when Homer who, Probably the most fashionable european director working on Broadway right now
There is nothing unusual about what he does in the european context. It actually goes all the way back to the fifty seven and by worth festival and when you first began to see the idea of conceptual theater and what the Europeans com directors, theatre in opera, its migrated onto the stage. And went home- has brought it to a two broadway and has made it quite successful with the revival of the crucible and a view from the bridge and then a stage version of the the film good. Lord maybe there's nothing. You network gather yes, ok, boomer out over all which had been worn, I place indeed, yes, all of which have been driven by successful and has been very well reviewed. So he decided to do a musical, absurd
aging of West Side story, one that is a kind of a locust classes of all his techniques. It's done on a we bear stage and the entire back, while in the stage has been turned into a projection screen a mammoth screen. This is one of the biggest theatres in Broadway. He has scrapped. Jerome Robins is a quiet, Garber fig which is normally used in all, but one or two of the production of this now that I've seen over the last decade now he has cut songs. He is cut the most important, the key dance number in the show, which is the ballet seen done to somewhere, which a Robin size the pivotal moment, he's got. I feel pretty and he's done all of this for the purpose of transforming
West side story into a relative and woke statement about racism in America. Guess at the best you can come up with and its dreadful. It's just but it's it's. It's not travel because of any one of these particular things. I have felt, for example, for a long time, did we ve, seen Drum Robin Square Yard? Shows wonderful, blue. Believe me, but we all know it, we know it from the film. If you ve ever been to revival, you ve seen it there I have been eager for somebody to try something new. You need to do this kind of thing. You bring fresh blood Lucia, but when hover has brought in a modern dance choreographer from the Netherlands on threats, it acquires a member who has never directed a musical or anything like one knows. No
about popular dance and has given us dance That is shatteringly boring. It's the only thing I can say that it I mean well, let's, let's legible, swirling around the stage right, let's go to the let's go to the Walker to because I think the most one of the most interesting things. You say about this, though, that this production is a masterful number g officer crop, key one of the widow songs in the entire bra. Way can and which is about liberal, which is about the which is about the juvenile delinquency and it's an and how it interacts with liberal social ideas granted at the time of the nineteen, fifteen and nineteen sixties. What about social workers and head shrinking? And this in that? And then this one street cop, whom these
Young criminals tried in gaol out of being hostile and harsh to them by in invoking liberal pieties, That's fine, grained on account of I'm deprived right right. So this is an extra number, the lyrics or by Stevenson time who we're gonna, get you in a minute. I, the twenty five year old Stevenson time an amazing piece of comic writing
this number is now about police brutality right ended in the in the show it land so hard, because it's funny it's eleven o clock number but is also coming from a place that you don't expect. You don't expect these kids too, to snap back at the easy soft minded liberalism at the moment. It, it's totally surprising, well learn how to turn it into something that is the inverse of surprising. He uses his huge back wall to project police body, camera images of police brutality, the kind of scenes you you ve- been seeing the notice for the last couple of years all very familiar and he contrives amazingly to do a staging of one of the funniest numbers in the history of Amerika musical Comedy, and it does get a single laugh, not
That was my letters right. So let let's move on to the author of that's about the author- has lent Bernstein, of course, wrote the music to Westside story A but Stephen Saunders, lyricist twenty five years old version on Broadway. Second show on Broadway was Gypsy, which a lot of us believed to be the greatest Broadway greatest of the Golden Age, Broadway musicals, and maybe the greatest of all new, with the greatest eleven o clock number roses, turn turn the mental breakdown of a stage mother and then ten years after that web with a one big head in his in his if his quiver after that fighting happening with forum emerges with a show called company in nineteen seventy and becomes I say in a column today, because a Terry's written that peace once on hunting. Ninety wrote one for the March issue commentary. I have one today than your post and sometimes ninety per
which is Sunday becomes di. Dong figure in the American Theatre for the next quarter century. I think without question. No, perhaps totally agree with you and it's important, that you didn't say the American Musical Theatre, because I think that sad time is every bit as important as ever Daulby be as David Mammoth as any of the key american playwrights of the post war era. He deserves to be judged that way, he's talking about the same things. They talk about he's just doing in an indifferent medium and he hasn't generally been recognised as such, because he is writing musicals and musicals or musicals analytically right into the park. He only wrote the thongs right as right, so he only wrote. The funds they shows are all thought of, as some musicals, though I mean they are, even though they were there. We are,
always call them that and we know that he is involved intimately in the creation of the total artistic experience is not just that he's taking somebody spoken, adding songs to it. They are. He would not want you to say that he thinks it's and he's right. It does its re important to mention James, a pine dimension, that people who wrote the books, but these are ultimately Stevenson time musicals. They reflect his sensibility, they reflect his concerns. He is the prime mover in all of them and they are the best we can Then there are the best we have to offer. The history is theatre in the postal rear. I think- and he turns so he turns ninety he really high, had a
new show produced since two thousand and eight, which was not even really review, was didn't ever really open and has not been reviewed, but he is, I believe, now probably the most revived of the Broadway complete, certainly of his lifetime, certainly Cynthia and since nineteen since right, the death of Rogers and Hammerstein Where are the the end of the Rajah Amazon collaboration? Every his show, assassins, which is a very controversial show, was due for a room opening, a revival this week or next week. I will probably not gonna, have a couple of years after his last revival. Right so anyway, I say my peace that he is the greatest
an artist in New York City, he may be the greatest living artists in the United States. It's hard to it's hard to say if you were to go down the list of songs and he's written, pull them out of the shows. The songs is written. You you, you would prefer a babe Europe, Europe, musical theatre, narrative of some vintage? I mean what really kind of only specifically regarding sometime he's pissed, because he is very different from sort of anything any one else. One thing that I wished both of you, John and Terry, had mentioned a little bit. More was in your pieces, was sometime as composer sort of his. Musical. Signature is also very distinct. I mean Terry mention that he should involve the kind of some of the pop
styles of the time when other people had done that, but there is also something serve more unique about him as a composer right, a minister his angular kind of melodies and sour harmonies, and- and if you could talk a little a little bit about the job for me, as I am sure that so much you're talking about a guy who studied composition with Milton Babbit, the most revive it is of ultra modern of the post war era, somebody who was also a fanatic about Joe Music, which is whether got long and it was Babbit who taught son, I'm not only he expanded as our modifying which, but he also taught him how large scale musical structures more, how an operative chain of works and sometimes took that knowledge and put it on the stage and used it. He said very specifically to write a number like from from them and the mind music of a week,
in the country, which is a very large scale structure, something that a song rather like Irving Berlin, great though he was had no notion of how to do so. We described. We should describe what that number. Is it it's a special it's a thing that saw him. Does it? No one else has really ever done. It's a kind. These are kind of one act. Aid inside the shows they weaken the country. I think it's ten minutes long song. I write about my peace, someone in a tree which is from Pacifica sure, is a seven and a half minutes long. They are. They are multi populated pieces of business that involve the entire often involves evident, sometimes its entire cast, sometimes two three or four people that tell a distinct story ends I the show that advance the plot of the show are almost stand alone and are
have a kind of emotional red magnificence as they as they reach their summit, that that only opera, I think cat can reach like a rat number. Yeah that number we can in the country, the the closing number of Sweeney tablets. We should talk when the second were absorbed going long, but one thing sometimes said once that I thought was striking. As you know, he only really had one hit, but we would consider hit that he wrote himself, not them Bernstein Song, some website story or the Gypsy songs, Julie, Stein, who composed of two gypsy, but there's only hit, as was said in the clouds, and some may say why you can't write hits what did you write heads he made fun of this song and merrily role long? Where somebody as you know, that's not a humble melody. The whole thing is where's. Your humble melody- and he said
that he he didn't know how to write that way in part, because his whole thing is about provoking confusing expectations, pulling the rug out from under you as a as a water in a listener, I'm the ambivalence that is great subjects, as you say, Terry, is reflected in the music which doesn't quite deliver that a blow of a hook. You now that you know, sticks in your head forever that other great song writers is, though, if you know the music it's your head forever. You listen three or four times. That's why, I first started writing about sometime about twenty years ago. Encounters ice, I did not think, did his shows would necessarily have a revival life, I thought they were simply to sophisticated too subtle, too difficult,
to live in the same way that say and Ruddy Harrison shows do. But something happened after that, something very important which is it a group of directors in regional theatre? figured out ways to stage son homes shows on a small scale and had them produced by companies that did not normally do musicals. Theatres, like Chicago Shakespeare, for example, which is the first such small scale, production ourselves, Gary Gryffons Production and the mightiest you. Ve had companies that were run by people who didn't necessarily care for carousel, although they should. But the point was that they did not like you. A love sometimes specifically in wanted to do his work and this style of production gradually made its way to Broadway. With the great revival of company directed by John DOE Oil, in which the members of the cast by them
instruments and suddenly sometime became someone. Who was within the reach of any company that was willing to make the serious commitment to to musical herself in order to do this shows- and he became somebody who is revived everywhere all the time because of this move towards false small scale, production It is the key moment I think in the history of of. Sometimes it is as if the actual phenomenon ended his ensured that those works are going to live on stage rather than, as I feared twenty years ago, just through their songs and through their original constant. While I mean just to give you, example of this. I close my com with this story, my fifteen year old daughter at her at her all girls school on the upper side of New York played the beggar woman in Sweeney taught the demon Barbara Fleet Street. This is a show that
as debuted on Broadway forty two years ago, in a mammoth production. I wish I saw where they sat. That was that had been. That was part of a paper mill in Connecticut that was taken apart and then reassembled on the stage of the. Gershwin, then than theater theatre to be a symbol of the industrial revolution in its horror and blah blah blah on son, apparently with Harold Prince who was the director of Sweetie Todd, because Prince wanted to make this big social statement about Victorian about the capitalism and victorianism and and sometimes at this is a show about. Then this is show about a man who is mistreated and comes back and it is a revenge melodrama, but Prince wanted to make a social statement and of course no one can afford to do that kind of production More ran. There was my daughter in a production with twenty girls to boys from
Other school. You know a keg of makeshift a very very impressive stage, all you know with up with six or seven peace orchestra, and this thing just knocked you out of the back of the theatre, because it is a genuinely great piece of theater. I think maybe the greatest piece of American Theatre ever done. It's very dark at its very funny and it's very brilliant, and it's very depressing, and it's very moving in
everything that a great piece of theatre, semi, opera, Semi musical, mostly sung, and the fact is the fact that fifteen year olds can do this in a way that that that has such an emotional impact, not that watching your kid on stage doesn't have an emotional impact whatever they do, including you know the pokey little puppy like you would still have that. Have that in you, but talk about proving that work is great. I mean, if a great in those circumstances, it can be great anywhere really great shows can be done big and they can be done. Small of scattered, Shaven told some harm
would gladly have done so any time at the metropolitan opera. It has been done in Chicago lyrical. It can also be done in a black box theatre. It can be done by a bunch of school girls and it's still itself, but still has its power and the size retiring that songs at this never fails to amaze me these are songs that were written, maybe more than any of the other great theatrical sources of american century written to be embedded in a theatrical context. They are totally integrated into the shows that written four and yet they can be done free standing and they move us just as much outside the content. That too, as it is a sign of some protein talent right well. Well, maybe you- and I have discussed this there's a song in his biggest flop show, which has an extraordinary score
but we were all along, which has been rewritten Henry Rise, a revision for for forty years in an effort to come up with a book and a plot structure by some thing too, so that the so that the songs can be set in the context of people actually want to watch this thing. Witches very hard to watch because its story so weird, but there's this one song called not a day goes by and it is, it is sung into context in the show. One a love song by a ban to the woman. They wants to marry and two as the Contra promptly as a as a savage depressed, unrequited love song by a woman who loves the man who was singing to the other woman and so in context. It is an incredible coup this the song with the same words the same words the same
reality, the same everything be a heart above a heart, rending song about love and a heart rending song about heartbreak at the same time, pull that song out and have a cabaret singer. Sing and it's still magnificent, so maybe a little less magnificent because it doesn't have this amazing blend. That is, you know, I'm duplicate really accept in the context merrily is the Sun home show that this is a weighting the solution, and I actually think it's found that solution. I saw it done three years ago in Boston, Huntington Theatre Company in what is probably get me. The final revision, a directed by Maria Friedman in it, were completely no question about that production should have transferred Broadway, it's only a matter of time before we get a merely well
on Broadway that reflects these changes in the show and when it comes, we will have another son, I'm Josie there you go. What, as we as we conclude this, we can bring this back to the crushing veracity of the earth, of the round of various. Don't please time were here. Here's how I would do that. Like you know, one of the things it's gonna get hit in this kind of economic contraction are non profit institutions like three quarter, did seven eighth, eight of the American Theatre now, essentially the nonprofit realm, and obviously, if they have endowments those endowments are gonna, be arguing. Already being hammered as commentaries nonprofit institution fibre. Wednesday three endowment is being hampered by the stock market collapse, but all
you know they don't have revenue, they don't have income. We just read the other day that major playwrights are being asked to refund what are called their advances from theatres to help the theatres. This is how they get paid by basically which is kind of outrageous Ashley, did ask people who have written, plays com by a theatre to somehow give the money back to the theater. But you know that this is vaulting, but these stimulus packages like once you start. Where do you start? If you're going to support small businesses. What're you going to do to help these nonprofit instructions. You could have a kind of cultural desert that emerges from
ass. A writer you we're wires, are small businesses and they're, the ones of of all the art forms performing all the reforms. I think they're, the ones that are at the greatest risk of going under they're, the ones with the smallest reserves they're, the ones that that the fabulous invalid, the phrase it coffin and hard came up with you described the american theatre. They are the ones that are, I think, more at risk. Then orchestras in opera companies receive a lot of the small companies in tremendously artistically. Viable companies are going to go under if, if they don't get help, I fear for the American Theatre, the next two or three years.
On a business level, but on a creative level, I mean there is sort of an inducement in these conditions to re, engage and seek out some sort of originality of setting. You wrote a line that you wrote that I thought was pretty incisive about Thea. The vapid anthems of a senile broadway, which consist today of Duke, as you call them, jukebox musicals, which has just basically a playlist is there with some story written around it, and you know what adaptations of movies from the early 2000s that they turn into a musical. That is what is fair on Broadway now, and you can envision, at least in the given the conditions of hardship and which we find ourselves for the first time in our lives that you can see some sort of aid and effort to produce in a way that production has as sort of atrophied. I hope so. I have a column actually on today's Wall Street Journal, in which I ask what is it
great theatre does forests and whether we missing because Broadway closed end, I mean. I don't want to be too specific about that, because I'm going to be reviewing these shows those that ultimately open. But you look at some of them and you ask yourself: am I missing anything by the fact that On the other hand, I am also missing what is clearly that the nearer transfer was clearly a very important and exciting revival of some times come revivals of all these, whose of regular, Jenny walls and amendments American Buffalo place that, I think really do speak to the present moment into the that the desire for community in mammoths case the asking the question is community even possible in a serious and world. Broadway can do this for us too, but it if it doesnt have something
better to offer us than mean girls, then it's not going to be something that we're gonna Miss dream. I liked me girls, oh I've, decided about, but I, like the girls there's attention there between us in the pursuit of commercial success and are a regionally and and cultural and an artistic success, a right which just where the real, the real action and American Theatre is not on Broadway. It's off Broadway, it's in the regional side by often say that if all I did for the Wall Street Journal Review Broadway productions. Well, it would be a bad thing, but my psyche ass. Well, so I just want jumping and say that's actually. Why, and especially you you make this point very well in your piece about was I'd story, but but that fact is is makes it all the more crucial that these sort of way, taking that some, unlike some time, was able to do throughout his career be allowed to continue. These smaller scale for new young playwrights, because if everything's,
becomes about being woke. We lose right, because you can't take risks if worried about I grow aggressions amene you're just not going to take that risk, especially as noses commercially. That becomes a risk if you get boycotted or cancelled if you're, looking over your shoulder all the time, you're not going to take any chances at all remedies that the problem for the theatre as well, as with a lot of art forms, have now been able to adjust two realities and and use new technology to help them lower costs, like you, can make a movie I'm an Iphone. Now you can record an entire album in your basement using garage banned it. It is much you dont need the infrastructure. Just like you. Don't need prep printing press to do a newspaper any more practically you dont need the infrastructure used to mean, except for theatre except for live performance. You need a building that takes up a lot of space. You need backstage material need people, you need support staff,
opera in particular, which is really the invalid evolved theatre or ballet in which practically dying out in America. Already there. There is a limit to how much you can innovate to make a cheaper. I mean obviously but we're talking about with some time and the and the the smaller scale productions was a way of figuring out. How produce things, because you couldn't afford the scale on which they were originally created, but you can only go so far with that right. There is a limit. There is a limit, and so you know Terry has called has made an interesting call also mediated theatres across the country to figure out a way if they could stage there plays in some kind of virtual setting that he would review them. He would try to give them right yes and next next week in the journal,
reviewing one of the first row, lads by a major regional theatre of a production, they were able to to expand their archival taping of the last preview it together, and it is going to be made available to viewers as webcast, of course, most most important. The others, like the rest of us, get caught flat, flooded and more able to do anything with this. They don't have the technological infrastructure the way that the metropolitan Awkward does but I think when the smoke clears, they're gonna need to start thinking about this and are going to start thinking about this
Well, I want to leave you with this thought, which is one of the weirdest and most interesting pieces of cultural news at the last six months. Was that secretly run been there? Nobody knew about it, a Hamilton which is, of course, the most successful and the best Broadway show of the last of this century. I believe the bad, certainly the best musical of the century, if not the best Broadway, show century that persuaded Todd exit while this century that time is the past century, the twenty first century, ok had filled itself over three days in some kind of production that by the filming, was sufficiently good. That Disney,
aid. Some astonishing amount of money to buy the rights to it. It's not a film version of it is a film of the stage version of Hamilton, the Disney paid seventy five million dollars for, and it's supposed to open in twenty twenty one, and if this goes on long enough watch for Disney to consider putting that here item on its Disney plus streaming service. Exam Lynn, Mangle Miranda wouldn't want that. Again, you will have to be long enough that you would have to really decide to take the head of of making it solely a stream. But you know it is the. It is actually something that would end up in a time of real national crisis and a sense of a loss of worth and all tat would actually be a national service. This is an extraordinary piece of America
I am positive americana that people could could use right now, but keep him keeping show for the right moment in it. It doesn't tagging much in the way of technology. The show I'm reviewing in next week's drama column was taped with two cameras they did. They may have three cameras, which is usually considered the bare minimum for being here the table. I performance and make it work visually and I assumed it was a treaty. Was the three camera shootings I was watching it. Theatre people are better than anybody except jazz musicians at improvising crisis rights. I hope to see them do. That is, as the corona virus crisis continues. Okay, so please go to commentary magazine, dot com and Re Terry's, Terry's peace wreck sites. Story about about being production. Unless I'm sorry, we talked about from the April issue issuing from the March issue. We have some time at ninety by terror I thank you for being with us
It's to join you. It was great Godspeed and for Christine Noah An able, John put words, keep the camel burning.
Transcript generated on 2020-08-04.