Guest blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art, she is Vice-Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of the Public Art Committee in Dallas. She is a former New Yorker, but misses only the great bagels and egg creams.
THE AUDIENCE EFFECT: TWO NEW YORK EXPERIENCES
1. Audiences can annoy
A weekend in the Big Apple has nothing on a weekend in Big D. You name it, we’ve got it. But we’ve got different audiences.
Fawn Johnstin, Jeff Perry and Amy Morton in August: Osage County on Broadway. from the New York Times
The drama, August: Osage County by Tracy Letts has won a Pulitzer and five Tony Awards. The out-of-town audiences are clamoring for tickets, offering standing ovations and participating in the production with boos for the villains and cheers for the heroes, as if it were a daytime soap or a midnight movie like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
In fact, my concentration was shattered at what seemed to be inappropriate, nervous laughter. My reaction is that Dallas audiences know the Tulsa-born Tracy Letts better — at least those who frequent Kitchen Dog Theater do. Kitchen Dog has produced Letts’ Bug (made into a 2006 William Friedkin movie, Killer Joe and Man from Nebraska in the recent past to great applause and deep reflection. Dallas knows the angst, misery, humor and dysfunctional families of Letts’ dramas. They seem to see more deeply and feel more deeply than the audiences now flocking to Broadway theaters. Dallasites don’t seem to succumb to a laugh-track mentality. They don’t let the humor override the angst. At least Kitchen Dog audiences don’t.
August: Osage County, a three-hour-plus production, deserves its accolades, but the almost totally new cast is miscast and cheats its audience out of deserved tears. But today’s Broadway audience just seems to want have a good time. And yet, I must admit, I do wonder how Letts wants us to react. Doesn’t he want us to cry inside, while we’re sighing and smiling? Perhaps some theater should be a solitary experience — like reading.
2. Audiences can energize
The same audience is visiting the four man-made waterfalls that Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and a team of brilliant engineers have created along New York’s East River. The most photographed and most spectacular is the one cascading under the Brooklyn Bridge. People tour by boat, by bike, by car and by cab. The engineering feat is awesome, but the genius of the effort — as a public art project — is that complete strangers bond together in the experience of traveling to see them, photographing them and then sharing the experience with others.
And that all of this is about a public art installation is amazingly wonderful.
Dallas may not have the Waterfalls — score one for New York — but we will have Olafur. Beginning in November, Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson, the acclaimed international traveling show, will take over the Hoffman Galleries, the Barrel Vault and the 4 Quadrant Galleries at the Dallas Museum of Art. The four-month show will be filled with, maybe not water, but other explorations in the world of nature, light, mist and color. Thanks to Charles Wylie, contemporary curator of the DMA, for booking that show — well before the hullabaloo over the Waterfalls started up or the extremely positive press of the Take Your Time show, which was on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art/New York this summer.