Monday, June 12, 2017

Shaking a Spear at Delta and Bank of America

I've been out of the loop with theater in NYC for a lot of complex reasons which I may write about one day... but I feel compelled to write about Delta Airlines and Bank of America withdrawing sponsorship from the Public Theater for their production of JULIUS CAESAR.

For my friends in Europe, you might not know that the Public Theater is where HAIR, A CHORUS LINE, and HAMILTON premiered. (No, Broadway is NOT where plays premiere; it’s where plays go to cash in on their success.) If you've ever enjoyed the songs "Tits & Ass" or "Age of Aquarius" you owe something to the Public. In fact, if you've enjoy any American theater in past 50 years, you owe something to the Public. It's one of the theaters that birthed the American nonprofit theater system for better or for worse. It’s where Meryl Streep got her start. It’s where New Yorkers have seen Shakespeare with stars like Streep (and Al Pacino and James Earl Jones and John Lithgow, etc. etc.) for FREE every summer for nearly 60 years.

Like any great theater, the Public would naturally mine JULIUS CAESAR for what the play has to say about the world today. Thank GOD the Public has a freaking perspective on the play instead of just tossing together another dusty old toga party. That’s what art is supposed to do, for chrissakes – give us perspective, context, a lens through which we can see the world from an angle we hadn’t considered. If it’s safe and reassuring, then it ain’t art.

I’m posting this because the theater community is teensy and we’re always preaching to the converted. But I’m in Europe where no one knows what the Public Theater is. I haven’t heard people here talking about boycotting Delta. (Bank of America doesn’t exist, so they can’t boycott it here...)

It's a slippery slope. Theater doesn't have enough funding as it is and corporate sponsorships is one of the hardest money to come by. The Public is probably doing okay with HAMILTON raking it in on Broadway but the summer Shakespeare productions are free to the public. Entirely kostenlos except for like 50 seats that are impossible to come by. And we all know that a company of 10+ union actors and stagehands, not to mention sets, lights, and costumes ain't cheap. So the entire summer season needs to be subsidized somehow.

Delta and Bank of America pulling out absolutely bites. If they're being swayed by Fox & Breitbart, then people who give a shit about art should give them a piece of their mind.

-- Here is an article about the debacle in The NewYork Times, which repeats incendiary quotes by Fox News and Breitbart, but gives the reader very little idea about the actual Public Theater production. 

-- In contrast, here is what a smart friend of a friend says, who has actually seen the play. He makes the very good point, “If there ever were an ANTI-assassination play, this is it.”

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