The Email That Shook Downtown Theater
Monday, June 28, 2010
When a disgruntled cast member of P.S. 122's Octoroon sent out an email trashing and satirizing the very show he was a part of ("I would like to invite you to a train wreck," the missive began), and the Village Voice posted it online, the downtown theater community responded. And they were not pleased.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, drama critic for the New York Post, Adam Feldman, Drama Critics Circle President and theater critic for Time Out New York and Vallejo Gantner, Artistic Director of P.S. 122, came by WNYC for an informal conversation about the controversy created by this private -- then very public -- email.
Though the email scandal is a shake-up for a relatively small segment of the city's arts scene, Vincentelli, Gantner and Feldman see it as part of a larger conversation about the role of the media in relation to theater. Should the Voice have published the email? Should theater critics who cover downtown be advocates for downtown theater, which often strains for press?
Comments on the Voice website villifed the paper for running a cheap, juicy story. As for the show itself, well, Gantner has barred the press from reviewing it, describing it as a "workshop," rather than a performance. You'll just have to decide for yourself. The Octoroon runs through July 3.
On the impact of running the email: "It’s understandable that very quickly something can be perceived as something that’s going to undermine your efforts, whether or not that is the case." - Elisabeth Vincentelli
On why critics are important to theater: "One of the things that characterizes an industry or a sector of our life that is strong and feels strong about itself is that criticism is a really really healthy thing." - Vallejo Gantner
On Arlene Croce's infamous indictment of Bill T. Jones' "Still/Here" as "victim art": "On some level, I think she was really onto something. It’s very difficult to write objectively about art when there’s this superstructure of personality or issue on top of it that people will think you’re writing about secretly." - Adam Feldman