Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Upon (Slightly) Further Reflection...

Sometimes you see your own words in a different context and they strike you in a new way. When I saw the words "racist institution" in Isaac's post here, it actually seemed a bit...harsh. Now, granted, the whole post was pretty harsh and I do generally say some harsh things around here. But still...when I wrote that post, I'd just seen Ruined was pretty het up by it. It's definitely a play that makes you want to stand up against injustice. Not that a play is equivalent to a war or something, but you know what I mean. So...I feel like a slight expansion, clarification, whatnot seems right. Or at least a longer, more substantive discussion.

As I said, I don't think that the people working at MTC are racists, and calling the operation a "racist institution" might have been a tad over the line. It's not like they're the Klu Klux Klan or something, or a bastion of segregation, obviously. So I don't mean to tar anyone with the David Duke brush there.

But I do think that Ruined is a victim of institutional racism. It seems remarkably clear to me, looking at the record. I did some more research today and since 1999, including this year, there have been 10 Pulitzer Prize winner for Drama. Of those 10 plays, 7 originated Off-Broadway. As of right now, 7 played on Broadway, either before or after they won the award. The three Off-Broadway plays: Wit, Dinner with Friends and Ruined. Ruined is the first Pulitzer Prize winner not to play on Broadway since 2000. Plays originally produced in New York by MTC have won 4 four of the last ten Pulitzers. One, Rabbit Hole, opened on Broadway. Proof transfered before winning the Pulitzer, Doubt after. Ruined seems pretty likely to end its run at MTC.

It's not like moving a play is something new or strange or difficult for MTC, even moving a show during rocky financial times. It's hard to imagine that an institution that purchased a Broadway house less than a decade ago would somehow lose the ability to move something. And, yes, I know that many shows are struggling and the financials across the board are bad. But even still shows are moving and opening and running. And, as I said, large cast shows are indeed opening and running.

And usually when a show receives wide acclaim and box office success, the buzz about a move starts going. And, in general, the producing theatre is a source of that. So far, nothing out of MTC, nothing in the trades, nothing about moving a show that's been extended six times.

Now I don't have access to the box office returns for the Off-Broadway run. That's definitely true. If I'm making the wrong assumptions, I'm open to being corrected. Please do. I would love to think that MTC has been working furiously behind the scenes to make the move. That would be awesome. But I just don't.

Because there is a lot of ingrained racism and prejudice in our theatres. Good plays are ghetto-ized as being of limited interest, with limited appeal. The traditional wisdom holds that the "regular" audiences won't really be interested, or the kind of people who go to Broadway won't be interested. But when I looked at the Broadway grosses, that doesn't seem to be the case. And since I'm just some anonymous blogger and those numbers are public knowledge, you'd think that someone considering a move would take them into account. And, again, maybe someone did. None of us know.

We do know that a play like Ruined does have some things going against it. And one of those things is that it's a "black" play. And when you look at similar plays, with similar drawbacks, but "white" plays, they don't seem to face the same obstacles. And that's what you call insitutional racism.

1 comment:

Tony Adams said...

maybe email the AD and ask why they haven't transferred it?