Results tagged “Bloomberg” from critical difference

Amid the confusion of construction that has made a maze of Lincoln Center, the little tree-lined avenue that runs between the Metropolitan Opera House and Lincoln Center Theater might appear, from afar, to be an oasis. (Look! In the distance! Greenery!)

LC plaza view.jpg

That impression would be a mirage, and not only because the adjacent reflecting pool, where Henry Moore's "Reclining Figure" once basked, is drained and demolished for reconstruction, too. 

Lincoln Center drained.JPG
Nor is the main trouble the absence of the shady London planes that grew there in travertine planters, whose sides doubled as seating -- though I have mourned those trees, especially in wintertime, when the white lights of their snowflake ornaments used to sparkle after twilight.

The real trouble is the pair of horrid concrete benches that have been installed alongside the newly planted adolescent plane trees -- benches so repellent that Bloomberg's Jeremy Gerard yesterday described them as having "all the aesthetic appeal of an off-ramp on I-95." He was not employing hyperbole.

Lincoln Center off-ramp.jpg

The phrase that leaps to my mind, however, is "housing project," closely followed by "community college." This is seating so cheap-looking and lacking in elegance that it would fit right in, were Lincoln Center one of those public spaces where good design isn't even an afterthought. (No, I am not taking a shot at people who live in public housing or study at community colleges. I am taking a shot at the tradition of designing those places to be aesthetically oppressive rather than pleasing.)

When I first saw the benches, my immediate impulse was to hope -- irrationally, but such is the nature of hope -- that somehow they weren't finished yet. Surely these drab things couldn't be part of the same project that resulted in a breathtaking Alice Tully Hall? But there they are, lining the plaza from Avery Fisher Hall to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Lincoln Center purple guy.jpg

If objections to them were limited to their appearance, their presence on the campus would be bizarre enough. What makes it exponentially more bewildering is that these objects that look so terribly utilitarian aren't practical, either.

Lincoln Center sandpapery.jpg
For one thing, sandpapery concrete has a nasty tendency to catch on fabric. The first time I sat on one of the benches, I was wearing tights; they were instantly snagged. What about someone who's dressed up to go to a play or an opera or a concert -- particularly in the warmer months, when people aren't wearing coats? The benches, so convenient for awaiting a friend pre-show or formulating a plan post-show, will tempt them. But visitors' delicate clothing will be at the mercy of rough concrete, and they'll be left angry and embarrassed by snags and runs.

For another thing, the benches aren't holding up so well, after only a few weeks of use. Presumably, the durability of this seating, if not of the public's dress, was a significant consideration in its favor. So should Lincoln Center be asking for its money back, given that repairs evidently have been needed already? If the patching below is any indication, the future looks more than a little jagged and crumbly.

Lincoln Center repair 1.jpgLincoln Center repair 3.JPG

And, due to the benches' stain-absorbing surface, grubby as well.

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Standing under the trees on a sun-dappled afternoon, it's possible to understand what effect the grove might have been intended to have on the plaza.

Lincoln Center sun-dappled.JPG

But it's never going to happen. The benches make sure of that.
July 15, 2009 2:54 PM | | Comments (2)
Quick! Name the five most influential female artistic directors in the American theater. You have 60 seconds.

* * *

Now, in one minute, do the same with men.

* * *

How'd you do? I'm guessing much better on the second question than the first. Did you even get five names on that list?

Okay, now name the five most influential theater critics, of either sex, in the United States. Sixty seconds.

* * *

Were there any women at all among your top five critics?

The point of this little exercise is simple: Women would have to wield a whole lot more power in the nation's theater in order to be credibly scapegoated for the low number of plays by women produced on its stages.

Emily Glassberg Sands' research on the subject is a bombshell in a sleepy summer news cycle, and it raises some genuine concerns that the theater would do well to address. What the recent Princeton grad's senior thesis doesn't do -- however inconvenient the fact may be for journalists, who tend to prefer juicy reductivism, the more divisive the better -- is identify a single cause for a persistent scarcity that has myriad causes.

So you can go ahead and disregard the third sentence of Patricia Cohen's New York Times article, which says Sands' research shows that "women who are artistic directors and literary managers are the ones to blame." And, while you're at it, the lede of Philip Boroff's Bloomberg story: "Female playwrights, long aware that they're produced less frequently than their male counterparts, may now have someone to blame: female artistic directors."

But, as suggested by "Women Beware Women," the headline on ArtsJournal's link to the Times story, the popular takeaway on Sands' research is likely to be a simple, misogynistic, maddeningly familiar formula: Women are too jealous to play, or work, nicely together. Far be it from them to give other females a fair shot.
June 24, 2009 6:28 PM | | Comments (2)
Or, as a friend suggested this morning, best-written play. Whatever the wording might be, the addition of a Tony Award that specifically recognized the playwright's work would right a wrong built into the current system: letting producers eclipse playwrights during their only moment of Tony glory, when the award for best play is announced.

That producers will ever be kept from mobbing the stage -- and hogging the microphone -- is pretty much unimaginable. But there isn't any real reason that the best-play and best-musical awards shouldn't recognize productions as a whole, just as the best-picture Oscar does in film. What's missing from the Tonys is an award for the authors of straight plays, which are especially plentiful on Broadway in these stripped-down times.

Given the direction in which the awards ceremony has been moving, such a change seems unlikely. As Dramatists Guild president Stephen Schwartz pointed out to the New York Post's Michael Riedel, two awards for writers, best book of a musical and best revival of a play, were left out of the broadcast last year. Those should be reinstated.

Might playwrights have an ally in one of the main overseers of the Tonys? American Theatre Wing executive director Howard Sherman was the executive director of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut before he moved to New York. The O'Neill is most famous as the home of the National Playwrights Conference, which during Sherman's tenure was run by James Houghton, the founding artistic director of off-Broadway's playwright-centered Signature Theatre Company. Sherman likes playwrights; he's a fan, in fact. Conceivably, he could choose to be a champion for writers on Broadway.

The Tonys' latest move suggests, however, that attention is being paid to exactly the wrong details. Bloomberg's Jeremy Gerard reports that the Tony Awards have dumped Lutz & Carr, the small accounting firm that's tallied their ballots for over half a century, in favor of accounting behemoth KPMG LLP.

The change was made in the hopes of bringing a higher profile to the Tony Awards telecast, according to Alan Wasser, an executive with the awards. ... Asked what difference the change would bring, Wasser said, "It gives the Tonys the imprimatur of credibility."

Uh ... what? That's the kind of move an organization would be smart to make if it had fallen into scandal, but that's not the case here. In a bad economy, when it's even more of a shame for anyone who's doing good work to lose business, particularly to a much larger competitor, it just looks cold. Also wrongheaded. When the aim is to make a show-biz publicity splash, the best game plan almost certainly has nothing to do with getting new accountants to add up the votes.

Writers probably aren't the answer to the question of how to make a splash, either. But if the Tonys are looking to enhance their credibility, they might try giving playwrights their moment in the spotlight.
May 21, 2009 1:18 PM | | Comments (1)
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