Sep 21, 2007

Rapp Raps Back

Not really, actually. Given his most recent flogging by the NY Times, Adam Rapp is remarkably circumspect about critics, in an upcoming American Theatre profile (not online yet):
Criticism is really unevenly distributed in this town. Obviously the power of the Times is discouraging. It's killing new plays, demolishing one after another. Charles Isherwood and Ben Brantley have a lot of power. I would like to think that Michael Feingold, Jeremy McCarter and David Cote and people who are really interested in new work would have an equal distribution of power. But we're so governed by the Times. Everyone is so afraid to talk about it, which is what I hate. Now that I've been demolished by them, I'm not going to be afraid to talk about it.

On the subject of being "demolished," Rapp says "it's a good feeling...I feel like an underdog now...Having a certain amount of success can be a poison to anybody." The notoriously prolific Rapp, who will have had three premiere productions by the time 2007 rings out, also tells reporter David Ng that he's working on a trilogy "like Coast of Utopia," except not: All three plays are set "in the same decrepit hallway, except they each take place in a different time period." No sellout, that Adam Rapp.

1 comment:

August said...

The only way critics of a certain size will ever lose their power is through a gradual sea change in how people read reviews and make decisions on what to see. If audiences begin to engage in the wider sphere of opinion beginning to take shape online, then perhaps our more vibrant and diverse theatre will be served by this more vibrant and diverse criticism. But the lack of that isn't Charles Isherwood's fault, who does, in fact, like new plays (Eno, Ruhl, Shinn). Because Feingold doesn't like Ruhl and Shinn but does like Rapp, does that makes him care more than Isherwood about new work? I would agree that Isherwood's review of Rapp is so caustic it obscures the work, rather than reveals it, but when he likes a play, he can write with great sensitivity about how and why the play works. You may not like Ruhl's Eurydice, but you can understand why so many people do by reading Isherwood's review (esp. from the 9th paragraph on). And however powerful the Times may be, Rapp has three plays coming up on the boards, one of which at least is produced by a company that adores him (Edge). It will undoubtedly be reviewed by many critics and bloggers, and seen by plenty of audience members who care deeply about Rapp's work. And if Isherwood's review makes it less likely that Essential Self-Defense will win him that Pulitzer, it certainly is not keeping his work from engaging with an audience. Which is, after all, the point. I'm not sure Adam Rapp is an underdog, marginalized writer anymore than any other playwright in America is by simple virtue of their being a playwright. And there is no other American paper of such size and power that continues to champion theatre the way Times does. I don't want the Times to have less power in championing theatre. I just want other voices to have more.