Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Art from the News I: The Evils Of Marketing to the Moment

Via 99-seats-at-Parabasis, apparently MCC is reviving that shitty musical Carrie. The quoted rationale sticks out to me:
Director Arima stated, "As our society finally begins to take a serious look at the intense stressors placed upon teenagers and the often tragic consequences of bullying and social ostracism within our schools, the message of Carrie has only become more timely and resonant."
How absolutely vile to take a musical that nobody liked at the time and try to position it as "speaking to the moment". Thank God he doesn't come out and say "In light of that one gay who keep committed suicide that everyone's talking about"!

It's not even phrased "We were looking for something to speak to the recent tragedies that have come to light in our nation's schools, and we couldn't think of anything better than Carrie" -- which would be laughable.

NYU has a new head of the Drama Department, and one of the things we used to deride her for was that her favorite word was "Zeitgeist" and she basically told a class of would-be producers that they should look every day at the front page of the New York Times, and do work that speaks to whatever is there. At least creating work that speaks to the front page of the New York Times is one step better than taking whatever work you're going to do (for whatever incomprehensible reasons) and saying, "Hey, this thing on the front page could help get us some crossover attention."

Remember that time that a boy was killed because he was gay, and a group of theater people traveled to the town and interviewed the people effected, and created an organic show around it? That's, at least, a thoughtful and honest way to go about responding to a national crisis. And yes, they got marketing boons in return, but that's okay because they started with the work, and then the marketing created itself.

A bad way to respond to something important and weighty nationally is a ripped-off-the-headlines, thrown-together response. An even worse way to respond is to simply try to position your work in context of the current news.

If, as 99-Seats suggests, the Roundabout decides to remount Starlight Express, are they going to lead off their press release with "As the Obama administration leaves NASA's future in doubt..."? Will someone try to remount Moose Murders by saying "As the Obama Administration delays trying terrorist Ahmed Gilani, we look back at another, whimsical set of murders..."

Dear God. I'm just upset.