Us and Them
On Thursday I'm heading down to Baltimore for Theatre Communications Group's National conference. However, I'm not attending just to have cocktails with opening speaker John Waters (though that would be nice), or to spy on the show folk (though I probably will). I've been invited to participate in TCG's "Press Summit," which will place a whole bunch of artistic directors in a room with a whole bunch of theater critics, on camera, for two hours. If that sounds a little like an aesthete's version of a cage match, well, don't get your hopes up. You don't really want to see us in unitards, do you?
The good/bad news is, we're all meeting for a common purpose, because these days critics and the critiqued are neighbors on the same leaky, uncomfortable, storm-tossed ship. With theater companies and newspapers closing at roughly the same rate, we're all looking a bit green and hoping for a cabin with an ocean view, if only to get some fresh air and see what's ahead. TCG hopes this summit will be that cabin.
Joining me on the panel will be--among others--Bartlett Sher, who just enjoyed the pleasure of Mr. and Mrs. President's company at his production of Joe Turner's Come and Gone; Lou Bellamy, artistic director of St. Paul's Penumbra Theatre Company; Raelle Myrick Hodges, a former Philly homegirl, who founded Azuka Theater and for some reason left to go somewhere else not half as cool (Okay, fine, she won a NEA/TCG grant and is now artistic director of San Francisco's Brava Theater Center. Congratulations. Whatever. We miss her.); and Emily Mann, artistic director of Princeton's McCarter Theater. There are other, equally esteemed directors attending, along with plenty of rising and established critics (Okay, fine, the New York Times' Jason Zinoman; Time Magazine's Richard Zoglin; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Christopher Rawson, among others), and the whole thing will be moderated by Judy Rousuck, former theater critic for the Baltimore Sun, and current critic for WYPR, Baltimore's NPR station. And sorry for the extreme editing--I've been told blog readers won't stay focused for very long, so trust me, there are about 20 of us and we're all pretty good at what we do.
We're charged with discussing the present challenges and future adapt-or-die strategies of theater and its media-based parasitic twin, as well as hopefully coming up with some answers. I'll blog and Twitter from the event and give you a link to TCG's video when it appears, but know this: if Mr. Waters joins me for cocktails, you're gonna have to wait.