Dec 20, 2004

Splish Splash

Whatever you think of Gordon Davidson, there's no way you can look at this picture (from yesterday's LA Times Calendar valediction) and not smile.

As for Mike Boehm's piece, it was a fitting tribute with a raft of well-quoted sources--and not a mention of Davidson's notorious napping (at performances, at rehearsals, in meetings). Where it counted, of course, the guy has never been asleep at the wheel, even when he wasn't always the fastest or most adventurous driver. A man who gives as much as he has for so long to the art of the theatre without burning or selling out deserves every moment of tribute he's got and is getting this final season.

It's only a pity that there's no one at any newspaper in town who can step back and sum up his career critically, except perhaps the Weekly's thoughtful, indispensable Steven Leigh Morris. The Times' Don Shirley has the background to do it but isn't likely to be asked. In short, Gordon has outlasted not only most of his peers but the critics as well--which is partly a tribute to his longevity, and partly a tragedy, since one role of critics, particularly in the ephemeral art of the theatre, is to record, reflect, and remember what they saw onstage. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Gordon's career is lost to history--no one who's touched as many people as he has over 37 years will or should be quickly forgotten. But there has long been an unmistakable gap between the state of the art and the state of arts coverage in Los Angeles, at least when it comes to the theatre, that hasn't been the case in, say, Chicago, where the Tribune's Richard Christiansen was around to witness of Steppenwolf's birth and stayed on until the end of 2001 to watch his hometown become a stage mecca.

Davidson doesn't need the validation of us ink-stained scribes, of course. It's really more the other way around: We in the critical profession could use a longer and wider view of the art form we cover. The career of this former stage manager from Brooklyn towers over the career of any theatre journalist I've ever met, and as such is a good place to start (but not end) our study of the theatre in Los Angeles.

In the absence of critical authority, in other words, Gordon Davidson has been, for better and worse, L.A. theatre's founding father, taste maker, and leader. He's no longer so alone as he was for most of his years on Bunker Hill--there are many more LORT theatres now than there were even at the start of the 1990s, when I began covering local theatre in earnest, not to mention a vibrant theatrical scene outside the regional theatre model in storefronts and mid-sized houses all over the Southland.

All this--Gordon's central role in a drama that will outlive him, and that unfolding drama itself--is cause for celebration, no matter the scarcity of official celebrants in the print media.

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

I think it's going to be really cool, someday in the future, when you are credited with bringing, well, credibility to the art of theatre criticism in Los Angeles.

Keep up the good work, Rob.