From The "We Must Burn The Village In Order To Save It" Department:
On Friday Intiman Theatre announced they are scrapping two big-cast shows in their 2003 lineup, and replacing them instead with a five-hander and a solo show respectively.
So, while I'm very pleased that Mr. Daisey will be returning to Seattle for a brief reprise of his show, I had to laugh when the ariticle stated, "According to (Intiman's Artistic Director, Bartlett) Sher, no fiscal crisis prompted the changes." as well as his statement that, "The Intiman is doing great, but we're being extremely careful to make sure we prevail." This of course when everyone in the Seattle Theatre community KNOWS that Intiman (like many other major companies) is collapsing under a terrific debt-load (in this case somewhere close to $1 mm, if not over that amount), brought about by overly ambitious programming, accompanying cost overruns, and a dearth of financial support.
Now, while I'm all for cost-cutting in these gloomy economic times, it's also interesting to note that the two shows Mr. Sher chose to excise from his season were well-known works with built-in audience recognition ("Tartuffe" and "Arsenic And Old Lace"), which despite having a combined 22 roles between them (which will now be reduced to a total of six with the two replacement shows) might have actually had a chance of bringing in audiences, and therefore contributing to Intiman's dismal cash-flow situation. So, rather than finding other ways to trim their budget (for example trimming fat from the bloated administrative line), they choose instead to sacrifice the product -- the entire raison-d'-etre for having a theatre company in the first place -- in order to survive. Isn't that an example of the military/bureaucratic mind-set that believes the only way to save something is to destroy it?
For those of you experiencing a moment of deja-vu here, this has all the earmarks of a redux of last year's "Waste" fiasco, and I have little doubt this decision was probably equally driven by Intiman's managing board, which has no doubt gotten tired of hyperventillating over the vast sums that Mr. Sher has run through during his brief tenure in Seattle, while at the same time watching box office and contributions fall off as individuals, corporations and government all go through a process of collective belt-tightening.
Also interesting to note is that these draconian measures were enacted primarily (or so the article states) to preserve what are most likely Mr. Sher's pet projects in the season, a production of Tony Kushner's "Homebody/Kabul", which he will be directing this fall, as well as Intiman Associate Artistic Director Craig Lucas' musical version of Elizabeth Spencer's 1963 novella, "The Light In The Piazza".
Now, arguably "Homebody" is a worthy piece, and certainly deserving of a top-quality presentation, while I know absolutely nothing about the latter work (but then of course, very few outside of hard-core southern literature afficionados probably do either), and so cannot comment on its relative merits. However, the constant program-shuffling of shows has to be making some people -- and not just myself -- wonder just what the hell is going on over there at the Seattle Center. My guess is that the board may be suffering from a very bad case of the Nervous Nellies, and has decided that despite the obvious popularity of the two dropped productions, they were just deemed too big and expensive to mount in the current climate, which of course begs the question of why they approved them in the first place. This is the second major reshuffling in two consecutive seasons, and one can only wonder whether the board has decided to play "Monday Morning Quarterback", because they are beginning to distrust their AD's ability to bring in a large-cast show on-budget.
In any case, it doesn't add up to a warm-fuzzy feeling, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Mr. Sher and the Intiman board agree to an amicable parting of the ways within the next 12 months -- assuming Intiman lasts that long as a producing organization.
on 5:29 PM