Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Who The Hell Do You Think You Are, Laura?????????????????
I knew ENCORES was going to do "Big River" around this time, but it didn't figure in my plans, because, frankly, having seen the original 1985 production, it was, to be completely honest, never one of my favorite musicals, anyway. It just did not click, for me.
But I always scan The New York Times Theater section. And when I saw the ENCORES production reviewed, labeled "A Bit Ill-Timed," I wondered about that, for a second, then turned to other things.
Once I saw, in "Playbill," how this had escalated into artistic controversy, I went back and read Laura Collins-Hughes' review. And I had to agree with her critics.
Yes, as for the production, the review was basically positive. If there were some reservations (even fine productions ca have weak links) she would have been right to state them.
But when she turned to the tenor of of our times, and how everything put out for artistic consumption should be in accordance with the values of 2017, she lost me. Laura was speaking for the Millenials, that group with no sense of social awareness or historicity. In one passage, she says Mark Twain should not be rewritten, (gee, thanks, Laura!!!!!!!!!!!) then goes on to lament the fact that Jim, the slave is the only substantial Black character in the story.
I mean--Laura!!!!!!!!!! Have you read any pre-Millenial fiction? Have you even read Twain's book? While I don't think it is America's greatest novel, (I make more of a case for "Moby- Dick's " validity, there!) it is an acknowledged masterwork by a master author, who happens to be criticizing the tenor of his times. Its universality proves it transcends time and place.
As do most great works of art, but Miss Laura cannot see that. In limiting creativity just to what reflects the current social and political era, she would seek to limit artistic freedom, and decry all that is gone before.
I stand with Jack Viertel, Rocco Landesman, and others in their criticism of The Times' printing this review by Laura. If that is how she approaches art, then she should never have been given the assignment.
As a Baby Boomer, I thought The New York Times hit a low point, when it printed, on April 23, 1972, Joyce Maynard's "An Eighteen-Year-Old Looks Back On Life." Four and a half decades later, I can see it for what it was-- youthful inexperience and hubris. Which Joyce herself, to her credit, has admitted over the years.
But Laura hasn't that excuse. Her piece is a slap in the face to those of us who care about art, and preserving it. Her review smacks of servitude to the Trump administration, who would like to dismantle all art, culture, and freedom of thought.