Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Stirring the pot

Well, it's been great to hear from my fans (or at least my fan – thanks, Lisa!) during this relatively fallow period in my posting. Work (the 9-to-5 thing, not the Style gig that I do solely for all the money, perks and chicks it gets me…) is sucking up all of my time these days. It’s sucking just in general, too, but that’s a longer story.

I hope you caught Ms. Biegelsen’s review of “Steel Magnolias” in today’s Style. There’s a possibility that yet another Style reviewer will be covering “Mme. Bonnard’s Bath.” If all goes well, this town will be positively infected with theater critics!

And while I’m on the subject of the Firehouse, I’d like to throw something out there that might stir the soup a little. The Firehouse has had an on-going relationship with Israel Horovitz for many years now. If I remember right, it was initiated back when Director Bill Patton was doing shows more regularly at there. I’m sure there are many interesting and exciting things that come out of this collaboration. But I also wonder how much it ultimately benefits the Firehouse. Here’s why I wonder that:

--- There are not many people outside of the already somewhat insular world of theater that know who Israel Horovitz is. Even within the theater world, people may not be familiar with “Line” or “The Indian Wants the Bronx” or the other big shows that launched the playwright’s career. So I guess I wonder whether his name is bringing more or different people to the Firehouse. More stuff by younger, hipper writers might be more effective (like Clay MacLoed Chapman’s “Volume of Smoke” which they did a while back).

--- This may just be my impression, but some of the plays by Mr. Horovitz that have been produced by the Firehouse have seemed not quite polished. The last they did, for instance, “Compromise,” had many intriguing elements that might have ultimately gelled into something truly compelling. But, in my mind, it still seemed a work in progress. (I should say that at least two of my friends whose opinions I respect a great deal really enjoyed “Compromise.” So maybe it’s just me…)

--- Lastly, not since “Lebensraum” has one of his shows really grabbed me. And much of the impact of that one was that it was such an interesting idea. The novelty of the premise carried it through some of the rough spots. Nothing since has struck me as particularly good.

I guess my ultimate question is: In a world full of exciting plays and only a limited number of spots on a season schedule, is the Firehouse hampering itself by so closely aligning itself with Mr. Horovitz?

And to be fair, part of this rant may spring from my frustration that there aren’t more places that new and challenging and even bizarre works can be seen in Richmond. I appreciate what Yellow House and RTP have done occasionally, and what Sycamore Rogue looks like it’s trying to do, but I have to say, I still really miss Theatre Gym.

7 comments:

Frank Creasy said...

You raise some interesting questions Dave. I really enjoy the different type of programming at Firehouse - they run a business risk by not playing it safe, but going instead for artistic merit, and in so doing have some misses along with some phenomenal hits, such as "I Am My Own Wife" (Scott was amazing, but he didn't direct himself or design the lighting or set!) But I agree, Theatre Gym had a more diverse approach at least with scripts by different playwrights (remember "Boomtown"? If you saw it, how could you NOT remember it?) So my belief is there's enough acting talent in town to meet the challenges of some widely differing scripts at Firehouse and other theatres. Firehouse is one theatre I've not worked with yet, but am always ready to audition for them because I support what they do and would be honored to work with them...though maybe a smidge less Horovitz might not be a bad idea. And I hope Carol and Morrie miss this posting or I am SO screwed!!!!

AmyBerlin said...

I miss Theatre Gym, too!! It was a place where artists could work on scripts that really excited them, and it showed.

JB said...

Hi Dave - Hope you had a great Halloween! : )
I miss Theatre Gym very very much. I worked on at least 8 shows there in one capacity or another and felt that I had a place to help present cutting edge and beautiful stories. It is my favorate space to perform at in Richmond and I hope one day it comes back to us. The Firehouse must also be commended for the intimate feel it gives it's audience and most of it's play choices. Where else could we have seen Batboy, or Hedwig, or I am my Own Wife? There is always hits and misses everywhere but isn't it great that there is a place that takes those chances? Thanks for bringing this up, Dave.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about Horowitz and I agree with everything you just said about his latest works. Having read "Mmme Bonnard..." I can say with even more conviction that his earlier plays are by far superior.
Not to cast a dark light on the upcoming show, which I am sure will be fascinating, but there just isn't the same weight and distinct language involved as there was in his younger days.

Jacquie O. said...

Hi Dave. As you may remember I did a reading of a few Horovitz one acts just before "I Am My Own Wife" opened. Although they were a fasinating read (at night...in my bed)...I did not think they were worthy of a full blown production. I saw "Wife" a few days after our reading and my mouth hung open...could this be the same playwrite? I do think the Firehouse could be more selective...however, I understand the pull towards working with a well known playwright once that relationship is established. It makes the theatre look very good!
Ah well!

Dave T said...

Hi Jacquie! I'm a little confused. Didn't you do "Unwrap Your Candy" which is by Doug Wright who also wrote "I Am My Own Wife"? Horovitz is the guy who's done "Fast Hands" and "Compromise." He also wrote the movie "Author! Author!" which I saw a long time ago but I'd like to check out again some time.

Jacquie O. said...

Yes Dave...my bad...Doug Wright. But the same point I guess. I did see Compromise...and wasn't sure why it was picked (the actors were quite good in it however). I do however agree with JB and Frank, that it is important that a theatre (like the Firehouse) not play it safe...we have theatre's in Richmond that already do that.