Sunday, October 01, 2006

If this ever changing world in which we live in...

This past week, while walking on my way to pick up a Slurpee, I ran into an investor who scolded me for breaking some story on this blog a while ago. I stood there for some time, listened and nodded, but then I blurted out: "Umm... you should be happy that anyone cares!" And it reminded me that for years I've been listening to people scream about how, because of the internet, nothing is private anymore. I used to hate having that same conversation over and over again--me defending the right of the people to know, all the while thinking: "If I say thirty people really care, I'm being generous." In this particular case, when this investor went with 'You people won't let anything just die--you have to put it out there," I just zoned out, thinking about whether they would have Pina Colada flavor at the 7-11. But it got me thinking afterwards--can things just go away in today's community? Or is everything, even things that only one person cares about, brought to light somewhere?

Well, shortly after this encounter, I was flipping thought The Times and saw Campbell Robertson's piece on "dueling magicians" Eric Walton and Ricky Jay. Now I'm a fan of Campbell's work and I do tend to read all his stories, but this one I got to about line 10 on before going back to watching my soap opera safe in the knowledge that I don't care about slight of hand artists. As I was watching Erica Kane try to reclaim the son she thought she aborted, something hit me--I remembered Marc Salem, another magician, and how he pulled a disappearing act with his own Broadway show. See, in 2004, his Mind Games on Broadway played Mondays (and at some point Tuesdays) at the Lyceum Theatre. It went on a scheduled hiatus in late November, never came back and no one wrote about it. I think I noticed about a month too late. Proof that if no one cares, things can just vanish, smoke and mirrors or no.

Another thing no one wrote about is the death of the Tribeca Theater Festival. For those who don't remember what it was, it opened in the fall of 2004 and was supposed to be a big annual event in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Festival. The Drama Dept., which was mired in debt and could not produce an actual season as it had in the past, was the prime theater force behind it. The central feature of the festival was The Downtown Plays, an evening of short works by playwrights Jon Robin Baitz, Douglas Carter Beane, David Henry Hwang, Neil LaBute, Warren Leight, Kenneth Lonergan, Paul Rudnick and Wendy Wasserstein. So, it's not like there were just a bunch of slouches involved. Yet, when the next year came and there was no Tribeca Theater Festival, no one seemed to miss it.

These are just two examples of the many things that still don't get reported. I mean--how many people noticed when Aunjanue Ellis was replaced in rehearsals of Doubt with Adriane Lenox? MTC has a few more instance of that in its recent history... So it's not like there cannot be a secret in this world, it's just hard to keep things secret that people care about. And is that so bad?

Well, I am of the belief that people should just chill about it. When there was a Friday Times column, I understood producers holding onto their scoops for dear life, knowing that a break in the column was a big deal. That column rightfully tended not to print old news, so if it was on on Tuesday, it was bye bye Times. But now there is no column and The Times and Variety frequently print things that have appeared online previously.

There is also the argument that word of casting or theater news before there are signed deals, jeopardizes the project. But I would counter with the fact that trade papers frequently print that people are "in talks" for movies and, while it does produce some drama, it is not a huge ridiculous scandal. Additionally, many film companies just ignore when random websites print such things in passing. In the theater world, print "in talks" on a website and it is like you are single-handedly responsible for killing something (I am not sure what). It is shocking that theater producers and their representatives tend to take these things so much more seriously than movie-folk do, because theater news reaches much fewer people than movie news does. And for every 100 people that care the casting of Kenneth Lonergan's latest movie, 1 person cares about the casting for The Starry Messenger.

So, basically my point is, theater people (myself included) often take things too seriously. It helps to have perspective. I hope this 'live and let live' message means that the investor I ran into won't call me and yell about this column.

Anyway, I must go prepare myself for Yom Kippur. I wish "easy fast" to those reading this who are fasting.


Witz said...

Actually, as a person who works at a trade, we get calls complaining all the time that we wrote someone was "in talks" too early and killed the deal. Now, whether that's true, or whether it's just someone pissed because they didn't get to control the release of the news, I can't say, but it's at least part of the time the latter.

a reader said...

Regarding the title of your post, this line in "Live and Let Die" always drove me nuts, ending, as it seemed to, not only with a preposition, but a repeated one. But then a friend pointed out that the lyric is actually, "This ever-changing world in which we're livin'...!" Kind of hard to hear the "r" coloration and the dropped "g" at the end of "living" with Paul's Liverpudlian accent, but it did restore some faith in my third-favorite Beatle.