Comment Of The Day: “Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/1/2021: Simone Biles-Free Zone Edition!”[Item #2]

David Rohde, a talented theater profession in the Washington, D.C. area and one of the smart ones too, has some thoughtful observations on the performing arts world’s adjustment to the Wuhan virus. Here is his Comment of the Day on Item #2 in “Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/1/2021: Simone Biles-Free Zone Edition!”

I’ll be back at the end to return is volley on the future of live theater…

***

I agree with you that the universal masking requirement at Broadway theaters is likely to depress sales, even among those patrons who don’t yet think it matters. When they actually decide whether to go or not, hesitation is likely to creep in. I’ve been to several masked (and, in these cases, distanced) performances of things during the pandemic, and a universal feeling among the performers – who, yes, sense the audience even if there’s a “fourth wall” involved – is that it’s an odd atmosphere because they can’t read facial reactions.

It appears that performing arts presenters in general are trying to get “through the moment” by issuing clear, simple rules to get their institutions reopened. But if you really want to see a furious reaction, check out what happened after the Metropolitan Opera followed up its earlier announcement of required proof of vaccination with an edict that all children under 12 would simply be banned from the building. (As opposed to Broadway’s approach that families can bring proof of a negative test for their kids who are not yet eligible for vaccination.)

You can argue that fewer operas are geared toward attendance by children of those ages than musicals. But the Met’s announcement appeared to touch several cultural third rails, from an accusation that the opera company was acting in almost a Salem Witch Trials manner to a reaction that the Met was killing all global efforts to prove that opera isn’t only for old people. People posted photos on Twitter (I know I know, Twitter) of having taken 10-year-olds to the Met to introduce them to opera, and numerous people pointed out that actually quite a number of famous operas feature children’s choirs somewhere within their plots. The Met actually has a number of distinct challenges in opening its season on time, and this reaction, even leaving aside the obvious trolls and Twitter fakers who are reacting on that platform, is yet one more hurdle.

All that said, one thing I’ve never understood, Jack, is your frequent assertion that live theater is in big trouble in America. If you want to assert in general that the live performing arts outside of popular music, especially as it tends toward the classical arts, often struggles to renew and replace its audience in America, and has to huff and puff to maintain its viability under the American model of little public financial support, then I understand. But in fact Broadway, far from struggling, was booming before the pandemic. Opera companies around the country, to save their finances, now tend to fill out their season schedules with musicals, starting with perceived artsy pieces like Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” but now even including “Oklahoma” and “The Sound of Music.” High school theater programs over time have gone from a perceived geekiness to a cooler place on the teenage cultural spectrum. At the risk of pointing to my own work, I explored all this in an article that I used to initiate my Medium channel last November. It’s titled “Six things that classical music can learn from Broadway after the pandemic” and I think it holds up fine. You can find it here if I’m allowed to link it, thanks:
https://davidrohdemusic.medium.com/six-things-that-classical-music-can-learn-from-broadway-after-the-pandemic-c075d1d1c9caUnapprove

***

I’m back, but only to address David’s optimism about the future of live theater. Several decades ago, a survey indicated that more Americans had called a phone psychic than had ever gone to a live theater even in their entire lives. Yes, I know, but even if that stat was exaggerated, I see nothing to indicate that participation has improved in the intervening years. I find it interesting (and telling) that the theater industry hasn’t done any publicly released surveys on the matter sine 2013. Why this is should be obvious: the entire industry feeds at the government’s teat. It’s already welfare for the rich, like PBS. Theater professionals don’t want to advertise the fact that live theater, once a mainstay of community, society and cultural cohesion, is increasingly a fringe activity for the wealthy, the elderly, and the stubbornly cultured.

Broadway is the Mecca for elite theatergoers, and at this point barely relevant to the discussion. Ticket prices are prohibitively expensive; even half-price tickets are expensive. Road versions of Broadway shows are only slightly less pricey. Meanwhile, even before the pandemic, the symptoms of cultural decline were beyond dispute.

Who is an acclaimed and well-known playwright whose works are eagerly awaited and guaranteed of success? There aren’t any. What was the last nationally known non-musical hit that the average American might recognize? I’d guess “Angels in America.” It premiered 30 years ago. Who took over for Neil Simon as the preeminent writer of stage comedies? Nobody. Who are the current Broadway musical creators with a string of hits and more likely to come? Jerry Herman is dead. Stephen Sondheim is in his nineties. Andrew Lloyd Webber hasn’t had a hit since the 20th Century. Lin-Manuel Miranda created “Hamilton”, of course, but he isn’t committed to live theater, and is pursuing projects in TV, movies, and as a performer.

Once upon a time there were theater actors and actresses who were household names. I can’t think of one today. The best known Broadway performers are celebrities from other mediums, like Hugh Jackman, aka “Wolverine,” who with luck will soon be starring in a revival of “The Music Man”—the most eagerly awaited Broadway musical in the coming season, and it’s 63 years old.

Meanwhile, many critics and observers are predicting that going to theaters to see movies is in a hopeless decline, thanks to laziness, “Bowling Alone” and streaming. And yet live theater will thrive? This is magical thinking. It is in the process of taking its sad place alongside ballet and opera as elite amusements for a tiny percentage of the population, kept alive by charitable largess and government subsidies. Sure, there will still be high school musicals, college theater clubs and community theaters, but they will become rarer and more irrelevant to the culture as the years pass, especially as political correctness makes all entertainment attempts dangerous.

I am not happy about this development, and I am certain we will all be poorer for it. Nonetheless, I think denying the evidence is just that…denial.

20 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/1/2021: Simone Biles-Free Zone Edition!”[Item #2]

  1. Not my impression in Australia – Sydney /NSW. COVID restrictions have struck a serious blow but hopefully we’ll soon be out of that. There are plenty of ‘local’ activities. Amateur companies seem to be thriving, with very high standards, and good support. And our top professional companies, ballet, theatre, orchestras, are generally recognised as world class.

    But perhaps we are more prepared to invest public money and to consider our arts as a national asset? And I’ll happily vote for that.

  2. I think our host makes a lot of great points. As far as I can tell, the theatre world is largely in denial about their future. It’s a rich person’s hobby, I feel like normal sporting events like baseball, basketball, and football are starting to move into this similar trend. I imagine avid sports goers have to feel the tightening of the belt to pay $50 for bleacher seats, and that’s assuming you don’t tack on the $5 hotdog and $10 beer. I briefly looked up Brown vs. Cheifs tickets for the upcoming season as my wife is an avid fan of both teams and saw starting prices were $300. Now, I’m not poor by any stretch of the imagination, but $600 without taking the kids and without eating, and sitting in the nosebleeds is going to certainly hurt my pocketbook for the month let alone off set my budget for the year.

    However, David is also right too especially in this when he wrote this: High school theater programs over time have gone from a perceived geekiness to a cooler place on the teenage cultural spectrum. It’s not just teens, but adults of all kinds. Maybe we not all going to one day go to the Met of the Italian Opera, but performing arts is not the dying industry that some make it out to be. At least, not in the traditional sense.

    Let me put it this way: On October 31, 2020 6,321 people gathered in Shanghai to watch the live performance of the League of Legends World Championship. Tickets sold out in minutes. They were joined by 23.04 million viewers online with a peak viewership of 45.95 million from around the globe. In analyzing the data afterward, they found that “there were 1+ billion hours of competition watched (Live+24) over the course of the tournament. This viewership sets a new record for Worlds and is an indicator of esports’ increasing appeal.”

    We can look towards this year Olympics to see it in another way. Perhaps through decline of interest, the pandemic, and the fact it was hosted in Tokyo this year The OCC thought it best for the first time ever to have an esports competition (non-medal). The eSports competitions were divided into the following categories:

    Sailing: Virtual Regatta
    Cycling: Union Cyclist Internationale (UCI)
    Rowing: Open Format
    Motorsport: FIA/Grand Tourism
    Baseball: World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) – eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020

    Though they will not receive the normal fanfare (a debate for another time) one article says,

    “This year’s games were preceded by the Olympic Virtual Series, where players competed in five sport simulation games. While these were not medalled competitions, they demonstrated gaming inching closer to the world’s biggest sporting event. Might we one day see video games in the Olympics proper, with competitive Fortnite slotted between judo and javelin?”

    I don’t see this being far from the truth. I fully expect future Olympic games to embrace an esports category. Japan may have even celebrated the event by showing off music from popular video games in it’s opening ceremonies from the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog to Final Fantasy. Which brings me to my point on live theatre. Like all industries, the theatre world will have to adapt to stay relevant.

    Four years ago my wife tells me to get in the car after church one Sunday. She was taking me to the symphony. This was strange because she had never done this before. I don’t like the symphony and she has never expressed interest in it before. Try as I might she wouldn’t spoil the details, she just told me, we were going on a date and that is where she wanted to go. So while I tried to mentally prepare myself for a few hours of boredom, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was sitting in a packed house largely consisting of people under the age of 45 (a number of which were wearing costumes). As the curtains opened the orchestra started their first song: Opening- Bombing Mission. Whatever thought I had of boredom was long gone as a lightly hummed the tune joining many in the crowd.

    After the number was over the director turned around in took a bow. Many gasped. Though I have never seen this man before I was well familiar with who he was and what he had accomplished. He was Nobuo Uematsu was responsible for some of the greatest video game music of my childhood. In 2007 AWR Music Productions in conjunction with Mr. Uematsu launched Distant Worlds during the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy largely to celebrate Mr. Uematsu’s work. Not only was it still going strong 10 years later, so was the game only increasing its popularity of people wanting to see a live performance of the music with the added bonus having new music to perform live making it almost a different experience every time.

    The premise, while simple is quite popular. It consist of an orchestra, a choir, and a screen featuring artwork and movie sequences normally where the song would have been played in the video game.
    It’s website calls it “a dedicated and phenomenal community of FINAL FANTASY music lovers, Distant Worlds is a unique multimedia concert experience that delights audiences all over the globe.” I would say it is a very accurate statement. It did not disappoint. I was even sad it had a intermission. The experience was amazing and unreplaceable. I had spent countless hours of my childhood (even some of my adulthood) playing those games, grinding through levels, hearing the music, but none of that would replace Mr. Uematsu coming back out on stage for the final number ask the crowd if it was ok to sing a song. He wanted (and want us) to join the choir for the final number which only has one English word. Some even knew all of the Latin chanting.

    While I have no clue what the future of live theatre might look like, I am 100% it will need to do two things: Drop their prices so normal people can enjoy it and change in a way that speaks to a new generation, because David is very much right. Nerd is becoming mainstream and they will want a lot of this.

    • I have noted similar furor for concerts that included Tom and Jerry music and multiple symphonies doing excerpts from John Williams’ massive work. Now I like classical music, but a live performance of the Imperial March is a different experience because it evokes more interaction/images/feelings. Then the problem for concerts is of access as the groups experimenting with soundtrack compositions are not near me.

      I have not seen any recent musicals or plays that appeal for years. Some I’ve even tried like ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ left me quietly disgusted not amused. Stage-adapted Disney musicals pull too much audience and exact nostalgic presentation from the movies to prove they could have been successful on their own. Yeah, revivals of older shows will continue to do well, but we are not seeing the emergence of new shows that have any staying power or raging success, even the movie Cats, notably newer than evergreen productions like Fiddler and South Pacific, was creepy from uneeded updates. That hints at the bigger problem that theaters can revive old shows if they don’t mess with them but cannot make wild successes that sweep more than Broadway and make the pop charts too. The creators have forgotten HOW to make stories that speak to everyone about universal hopes and fears. They speak AT everyone, insisting that it’s ‘not for me’ if I’m not enjoying new material or derailing changes.

      I think the expression at student level is semifad, fed by Glee and competition shows. Until it becomes a thing for more age groups and subcultures than existing theaters supporters and high schoolers (like mechanics and truckers and cashiers) I cannot believe the rootstock is healthy.

      • Yeah, revivals of older shows will continue to do well, but we are not seeing the emergence of new shows that have any staying power or raging success, even the movie Cats, notably newer than evergreen productions like Fiddler and South Pacific, was creepy from uneeded updates.

        I think this is a general all around problem for TV and movie production as well. People seem to afraid to try new things. It seems like lately there is a huge push for sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots. Punky Bruster got a reboot featuring her adult life. Saved By the Bell got another reboot (I’m honestly not sure how many they are on). Netflix even rebooted the Saturday morning Cartoon, Reboot. However, I think Disney seems to personally be leading the charge:

        Rick Moranis is returning to do another Honey I Shrunk the Kid’s. He hasn’t acted since 2007. Hocus Pocus is getting a sequel (it’s been 28 years). Robinhood is getting a live action reboot. Doogie Howser is getting a reboot feature a half Asian, half-white girl doctor. Beauty and the Beast is getting a prequel for it’s live action remake. The Proud family is getting a reboot. The Mighty Ducks already has season 1 of a reboot with season 2 announced this week. Black Panther is getting a spin-off series. Enchanted as a sequel coming out soon called ‘Disenchanted’ with the original cast set to return. It has been 14 years since the release of the first. Lion King is getting a prequel (Live action). The 1997 movie ‘Under Wraps is being remade, not rebooted. Darkwing Duck is getting a reboot. Zac Efron is set to play in the reboot ‘Three Men and a Baby’ though no word on any of the original cast. Percy Jackson is getting remade into a TV series with new actors.

        There are talks about remaking or rebooting Cheaper by the Dozen, Home Alone, and Night at the Museum, but so far those don’t seem to be going anywhere else.

        The benefit to all of these is they don’t have to be good. They just have to be good enough. Nostalgia will do the rest.

        • Remakes are nothing new, Philadelphia Story is an interesting example, but they added music. A Christmas Carol is constantly being remade and there are many and varied editions that are worth your time. Sequels do not have to be rubbish either, Wrath of Khan and Empire Strikes Back are both sequels and arguably the best in their series. Even the third Back to the Future and Indiana Jones movies are still nearly as good as the first. But relying solely on series/shared universes/reboots is stifling the industry.

          I think it may actually be a good thing that the pandemic has throttled to inflation of putting too many resources into the extrabagant tentpole movies. The most profitable are the ones that have modest costs and complete story, whether an existing character or not, and just plain tell an interesting story, like the Joker movie or Bucket List. Sequels should be the exception only when it’s well thought out and aligns in general tone and spirit. Right now they’re rushing too fast into production before they’ve even come up with a better idea than I’d reject for a fanfic as as too cheap.

          Sending this briefly toward the original topic of theater revivals compared to new productions, it really is the unappealing aspect of new shows. Review ones are not worth the cost increase above shuffle on my stereo– I enjoy them but they make no lasting impact. I hear about X new show, then read review and check one of the ‘pedias and discover it keys on an event, a person, a cause, or a great stupid that I really did not want to shell out a weeks pay for a dramatixation of it. I’d rather see something with staying power like Threepenny Opera. A lot of the small theaters here do almost exclusively progressive themed productions and have left behind the average person’s taste that used to be courted and led by those like Ed Sullivan. (I actually remember Carson and Burnett better, but Sullivan was the king) Mousetrap is perienniel because its a clear story that doesn’t need decoding or a specific political bias to enjoy. The last live shows I caught a decade ago before my health went south insisted on lecturing me instead of entertaining me. The makers like to say “You don’t like it, then it’s not for you.” I’m not convinced a lot of them understand big success comes from telling stories for everyone.

          • A side note: “High Society: has its moments, but it is a pale version of “Philadelphia Story.” Grace Kelly was out of her mind—she starred in a musical and couldn’t sing a lick, and set herself up to be compared with Katherine Hepburn in a role written for her. Kelly was great in her lane, but not within a mile of Kate as a comic or an actress. I’m always embarrassed for her when I watch “High Society.”

  3. Well, Jack, I had a chuckle over your remark about going to see movies in actual movie theaters. You’re absolutely correct, that habit has suffered an amazing change just in the last three or four years, the period of the complete pandemic shutdown included.

    Almost everything that’s now at the cineplex rather than streaming at home is part of a “franchise” with multiple sequels and prequels, generally built around superheroes or other comic-book characters or animation or horror stories or a ridiculous level of patently fake violence. And even the producers of these movies are starting to go to war with their own actors because the production companies can’t resist an almost simultaneous release to streaming anyway. Thus the recent lawsuit between Scarlett Johansson and Disney, with more such disputes to come. Standard comedies and dramas? Practically nowhere to be found any more “at the movies.”

    I laughed because I also recently wrote about this trend on my Medium channel, except my interpretation of the effect on the live performing arts is the opposite of yours. For the longest time, for so many people, “going out” by definition meant “going to the movies.” Even the most pandemically freaked-out people will have to leave their homes sometime in search of entertainment. I’d love for arts administrators from symphony orchestras to jazz clubs to black-box theaters to realize what’s happening and take *advantage* of the fact that Hollywood is abandoning tens of millions of people who want actual stories and originality and even artistic quality in their cultural intake. The link to that article is here:
    https://davidrohdemusic.medium.com/the-live-performing-arts-could-replace-the-movies-if-they-knew-how-4f256092ddb1

    As for the rest, as politely as I can put this, I have no confounded idea what you’re talking about. There are no well-known Broadway and theater stars today? Are you kidding me? Just among actresses, there’s Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Kelli O’Hara, Laura Benanti, Audra McDonald, and Sutton Foster off the top of my head. Each of them has some crossover appeal and entrée into one or another of television, movies (up until the day before yesterday), and even opera (in the case of O’Hara and McDonald because of their training and skill).

    A lot of your other examples and complaints are really just part of the atomization of society and media, where there’s no single, say, Carol Burnett-style comedy-variety show with famous guest stars and all that. (I thought I’d get you with that example.) And of course the late-night style of comedy shows with the promotion of guests has become more and more political. As far as high prices go, I mean, do you know what it costs to take a family of four to a major league baseball game? My point is that the high expense is part of a general society-wide trend where things are marked up to the high heavens whether it’s Broadway tickets or opera seats or sports events or ridiculous LiveNation/Ticketmaster add-on fees for rock concerts.

    Composers of musicals? Jason Robert Brown, who was and is basically the avant-garde of the newer wave of show composers and lyricists, came to one of the high schools in Montgomery County, Maryland and hundreds of kids at an after-school or evening session idolized him and peppered him with questions. Ballet? Any time I’ve been to one in the last 15 years or so it’s been mobbed, although granted, it’s largely families with girls far more than boys, so not yet with the progress on that front that theater has made.

    No, among straight dramatic or comedic playwrights I can’t immediately name a current Arthur Miller or Neil Simon or David Mamet or even a Wendy Wasserstein with repetitive hits without consulting a recent New York Times “best of” list, which then gets into controversies about subjects and identities. So you may have me there. What I thought you might say about Broadway is that there’s been a certain Disney-fication of the big musicals (ironically with the Disney movie reference above) and some considerable reliance on the “jukebox” musical back to old stars like Carole King’s “Beautiful” and Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out.” There’s certainly that trend. But when you consider what people thought might happen to theater not all that long ago, comparatively speaking, that’s dramatically, indeed exponentially, better than what had been predicted!

    • “Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Kelli O’Hara, Laura Benanti, Audra McDonald, and Sutton Foster” are off the top of YOUR head, and also mine, but none of them is a household name in the tradition of Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Carol Channing, Barbara Cook, Gertrude Lawrence, Gwen Verdon or even Bernadette Peters (who is now 73!) Bette Midler qualifies, but one hit show does not a real Broadway star make. This is the problem with your whole argument—you’re in the theater bubble. Normal people don’t know those names, just as normal people don’t go to Broadway shows.

      The readership here is pretty culturally aware and well-educated: I’ll ask them. How many of the Ethics Alarms readers know Idina Menzel, Kelli O’Hara, Laura Benanti, Audra McDonald, and Sutton Foster? How many could recognize their faces or voices?
      Kristin Chenoweth doesn’t count: she has done substantial work in movies and TV, precisely because, she has said, she thinks Broadway is a dead end as a career choice.

      • Jack, every little girl in America [exaggeration, and it’s a diverse society, etc., but come on] knows Idina Menzel because of Frozen. Sutton Foster has been on several middling TV shows but they’re aimed squarely at a particular demographic. The Kristin Chenoweth example is a particularly interesting one. Although it’s a betrayal of one of my musical idols and my own personal heritage, I’ve long had an irritation with Barbra Steisand because I feel that she could have taken more mid-career risks on the stage and helped Broadway in its time of need rather than go for the biggest, Hollywood-ish projects in all of entertainment and recordings. (Funny side story about a great line on “The Nanny” by Fran Drescher: She once said that she was just like Barbra Steisand “because we come from the same heritage and we both have distinctive voices.”)

        Still, these are theater people and public knows it about many of them. And it obviously works in the other direction as well to bring people in nationally and globally to the theater mecca. I’ll be sure to let you know when Lady Gaga gets a show on Broadway as she has said she wants to. And you do know that the one show now running on Broadway stars Bruce Springsteen?

        I mean, Ed Sullivan is dead, so of course things do work differently now. “People” didn’t necessarily go specifically to Broadway back in those days either, they bought the original cast albums, or believed Jackie Kennedy’s story about JFK and the Camelot album. [Boy, mentioning the Kennedys and Barbra Steisand in this crowd, I can imagine!] Meanwhile the main concert halls in every medium-sized city in America feature a “Broadway series” somewhere in their season schedules every year. For example, in my email inbox right now are messages from facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico – two cities where I have connections – with exactly that. Granted, we’re generally talking about musicals, not plays. But there absolutely is popularity for this stuff all around the country, and certainly not just in high schools! Again, I hope this helps.

    • Idina Menzel was the only familiar name to me, without context, and I’d bet a hundred bucks no one else in my immediate family would know any of that group. And I live within a couple hundred miles of Broadway. They are not household names here.

      Whatabout sports ticket costs is not relevant as we can’t afford them either, we have to depend on school productions to see any affordable sports or theater, But sports ARE televised from Pro to local access cable, there is no equivalent for theaters as standard movies and tv make bank on that format.

      Variety shows like Sullivan, Carson, and Burnette did a good job in exposing mainstream America to new experiences and stars. But they lost the knack of picking underexposed but ready comedians or musicians and key people retired. When stars didn’t want to behave, politics became too overpowered, and publicity leeched any authenticity away from the talk-show format even as the last true variety format faded away. If there is any hope theater must adapt format and material to be able to connect to more than theater die-hards.

  4. How many of the Ethics Alarms readers know Idina Menzel, Kelli O’Hara, Laura Benanti, Audra McDonald, and Sutton Foster?

    Don’t you mean Adele Dazeem?

    Perhaps you should let it go Jack.

      • I mean no disrespect. I was just trying to be punny. Actually I thought your point was well taken. I’m pretty sure the only reason people know Idina Menzel is because because the song she sang in the Movie Frozen, “Let It Go,” became a big Disney hit.

      • I have an Adele Dazeem story for everyone! In the fall of 2018 I had a contract with the Washington, D.C. Public Schools to music-direct a production of “Rent” at Woodrow Wilson High School. It so happened that Idina Menzel was going to be in Washington that November for a concert. One Wednesday between performance weekends we tricked the cast by telling them they had to report to the theater after school not for a brush-up rehearsal but to record some songs and personal interviews with a camera crew. All of which was true, just not the whole story. (At least at the time, Idina, who was in the 1996 original Broadway cast of Rent, was also planning to produce a documentary about the dispersion of Rent to high schools around America.) When the kids arrived, and the hired interviewer/emcee started picking them out for brief interviews on camera, literally three of them spontaneously mentioned that one of their inspirations for doing Rent was Idina Menzel. Naturally the stage director and I and the other staff started exchanging knowing looks.

        Then Idina, who was waiting in the lobby, was ushered in and, of course, pandemonium ensued among the kids. We sang some of the songs for her with me at the piano, and then there was an extremely heartfelt Q&A session between Idina and the cast. Finally one of the girls asked her if she was on good terms with John Travolta. Idina threw back her head in delight and said that she and Travolta had shortly thereafter had a phone conversation in which they laughed the whole thing off, and she assured everyone that “Adele Dazeem” has remained a standing joke between them ever since. I already knew that Idina had handled the whole thing in good grace and even eventually played it for laughs herself, but it was a wonderful moment and a great lesson for the kids, too. Of course John Travolta is still an idiot.

        Oh, Idina and I also had a nice conversation and she told me in all apparent sincerity, judging by the look in her eyes, that I had done a great job with the kids. I just thought I’d throw that part of the story in.

        P.S. Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. is changing its name. Take it away, Jack.

        • 1. Travolta is indeed an idiot. Talented idiot, though.
          2. Cool story!
          3. I’d fight to keep a statue of Wilson standing and appropriate recognition at Princeton but there is no defense of leaving a school named for him. Richard Nixon is more deserving of such an honor, and I wouldn’t want a school named after him, either.At this point, a school name honoring such a destructive, racist fool just furthers the false information partisan historians like Schlesinger fed the culture for nearly a century. Kids finally need to be taught who America’s worst President was, not study under his name.

          • I agree on Woodrow Wilson and have been amazed that it took this much into adulthood to learn the reality of what he did. Actually setting things backwards is a lot different than the rampant “presentism” that seems to be behind the wholesale and unjustified re-namings of things, or proposals to do so.

  5. As I think everyone has alluded to, I’d say it’s in large part a matter of costs both literal and opportunity-wise, given the exorbitant cost of tickets and the plethora of far cheaper entertainment options, and it’s not like these alternate options are necessarily lacking in either breadth or depth either; for example, Estonian-made Disco Elysium is basically a multi-volume postmodern novel that happens to be in video game form, and it did financially well enough to get an updated edition that currently costs about $40 on Steam, making it still cheaper than all but the “worst” seats at our local opera company. Indeed, I suspect Hamilton gained the younger portions of its audience mostly because its “sung-through” nature allowed people to engage with it mostly through the easily available cast recording, as opposed to having to shell out their non-existent life savings for a ticket, which I think ties into the point mariedowd made about needing to find new ways to connect to the audience. After all, as I alluded to earlier, there are still sizable audiences in other mediums for interesting non-franchise content; hell, a low-budget game about being a paper pusher in an decaying authoritarian dystopia (“Papers, Please”) managed to become a surprise hit:

  6. Broadway, in particular, has been committing “suicide” for decades. They like major league baseball have priced themselves out of the range of common folks. As a junior high, then high school age NYer in the late ’50s and early sixties, I was able to save enough allowance/pay to buy discounted student tickets to matinees and games. That is no longer possible. The salaries to pay players or actors have exponentially increased the price to the audience. Only the “elite” can afford to go see the reruns of mid-century theater. Added to that also is the reality that Broadway way has not produced anything worthwhile in decades. What they have produced is politically charged ( Eg Hamilton) and is not entertainment. I now live out of the NY area. I used to go to repertoire productions but that too has become economically and politically undoable.

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