Results tagged “economy” from critical difference

Over dinner last night, a reporter I know, who covers real estate, was lamenting credulous reporting on his beat: articles that reflexively link individual homeowners' woes to the real estate crisis, when a closer look would disprove the assumption. This morning on WNYC, the closing of a Broadway show got similarly unexamined treatment.

The story, by political reporter Bob Hennelly, is about what Democrats have to do about the economy if they want to win this fall's elections in New York state. Broadway being big business, it's not surprising that its health is one of the vital signs to be checked. That's why Rudy Giuliani, after the Sept. 11 attacks, implored the world to come back to New York and see a show.

They're still coming. However star-driven Broadway has become, it's doing well, reporting a record-breaking gross of $1 billion at the box office in 2009.

So how is it that Hennelly uses yesterday's closing of "Ragtime" to illustrate his point that the issue facing Democrats in New York is "jobs, jobs, jobs"? Here's how he frames it:

"A fabulous show. Great reviews. Forty actors, 20 musicians, out of work because the bottom line is -- you know, downtown Wall Street, they may be doing fine, figuring out should it be six figures or eight figures or 12 figures in terms of bonuses -- bottom line is, pain is being felt all over, and unless Democrats in the White House and in the Senate and the House come up with some kind of jobs program for the arts, nonprofits and for the broader economy, there is gonna be some problems come November."

That may be perfectly astute political analysis, and there's certainly nothing wrong with pushing for jobs-creation programs targeting the arts and nonprofits. But the vaporization of jobs on Broadway simply comes with the territory -- even when a show is terrific -- and the people involved know the risks. Shuttering a show can't be assumed to be a reverberation of trouble in the broader economy. It's normal, just as it will be normal, and not a sign of boom times, when another show creates jobs by opening.

A political reporter can't necessarily be expected to understand the mechanics of commercial theater (that's what arts journalists are for), but WNYC is savvier than that. It's a little bit shocking that this slipped through the cracks.

January 11, 2010 10:58 AM | | Comments (1)
For a good chunk of my life, there's been a theater I've particularly cherished for its taste and daring, its embrace of the new, its fervent belief that playwriting and performance are vital to our conversation about the world. It's never been a wealthy operation, but that's part of its charm: that for years it's staged some of the best, smartest, funniest theater I've ever seen, and it's done that on a shoestring.

So when the e-mail announcing its upcoming season arrived a while ago, I opened it eagerly -- and discovered that, for the very first time, there's absolutely nothing this company is staging that I want to see. The season looked, of all things, boring to me.

That's because the artistic director, like many of his peers, is spooked by shrinking budgets and suddenly less-generous patrons. He's playing it safe, or so it would seem: choosing scripts whose track records -- on or off-Broadway, in the West End, regionally -- make them look like sure crowd-pleasers. But the crowd that fills his theater's seats has always been drawn by freshness and edge. What's tried and true elsewhere is probably not going to do the trick.

That sort of common sense may be going by the wayside right about now, as theaters struggle not to lose their foothold in an uncertain economic landscape. An actor friend put it this way in an e-mail, which he's given me permission to quote:

"'This economy' seems to be driving theatres in all sorts of crazy directions and it feels to me as if companies are blindly reacting without taking the time to examine what it is that people really want to see. There is this perceived wisdom that dumbing down or doing more familiar and safer material is the answer to shrinking audiences. I have yet to see the research to back this supposition."
May 6, 2009 2:23 PM | | Comments (3)
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