Artistic Injustice « American Repertory Theatre:
Consider The New York Times, an organ on which so many of us depend for clarity and balance. It is ironic that the same newspaper that editorializes so eloquently against corruption in the political administration now bears so much responsibility for helping to corrupt our culture. Look what has happened, for example, to the Sunday “Arts and Leisure” pages, once popularly known as the “Drama” section, and now often indistinguishable from the “Style” section of the same newspaper. In the past, it used to routinely publish numerous background features, reviews, and idea pieces about theatre in New York and elsewhere. Today, its front page is largely devoted to columns about the careers and collisions of rock, rap, and hip-hop stars, when it is not running multiple stories about “American Idol.”
Now I love gossip and popular entertainment as well as the next guy, but isn’t there a place for serious theatre in this Sunday section any more? References to plays have been relegated to a column or two on page five, unless there is a big numbing commercial musical or some media-soaked British import like The Coast of Utopia lumbering towards Broadway. I realize the changes at the Times are part of its effort to keep financially afloat when the print media are failing to attract enough readers. And yet, despite its abject bow to cultural illiteracy, The New York Times continues to regard itself as the maker of theatrical standards. The New York Post recently reported an angry encounter between the playwright David Hare (whose The Vertical Hour was recently backhanded by the Times) and the paper’s managing director, Jill Abramson. Hare accused the Times (correctly in my opinion) of having little interest in theatre, and even less in plays. Ms. Abramson allegedly replied, “Listen, it is not our obligation to like or care about the theater. It is our obligation to arbitrate it. We are the central arbiter of taste and culture in the city of New York.”
The most depressing thing about this statement is that, whether or not Ms. Abramason said it, it is true.