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Yogi's Out, Billy's In The Great American Theatre Ballgame Christopher Martin In New York, Steinbrenner strikes again. In Cincinnati, Bob Kalfin is O-U-T, not at the Reds, but at the Playhouse in the Park, after one season; in Cleveland, Richard Oberlin, after eighteen years at the Playhouse, not able to cope with the Indians on the board, walks: and from the Goodman in Chicago, Greg Mosher hits one right out of the ballpark into the Beaumont at Lincoln Center. A homerun? That remains to be seen: New York is notorious for the George Steinbrenners lurking in the dugout. "In America," Martha Coigney at the International Theatre Institute is fond of saying, "no good deed goes unpunished." We'd like to think that it doesn't matter whether you win or lose, but how we play the game that counts. But we know better. We gotta hit that ball every time, or we're back on the bench. "In Europe," Ed Martenson of the NEA told me, "where the public are willing to pay higher taxes, the government can afford to subsidize the theatre; here, those who want to go to the theatre, have to subsidize it through the price of tickets." Sad, but true. The bleachers are gone. Costs have narrowed down to box seats, at top dollar, and the fans that can't afford them. In France, Roger Planchon at the Th6'tre National Populaire, still sells billets at a price that competes with the cinema; all seats are general admission to the 900-place theatre, and his audience is indeed "populaire"-a solid cross-section of French society from top to bottom. The experience is like that of a ballgame. The gates are opened and everyone grabs their favorite place in the stands. And, we are not talking here of a provincial rep (despitethe fact 91 that Roger has insisted on staying in Villeurbanne, the working class suburb of Lyon), but a national theatre. In a recent program of the Seattle Rep, Dan Sullivan, its artistic director, wrote a stirring article on the re-education of audiences as a primary goal of our resident theatres. Bravo. With a subscribership of 55,000, the Rep could reach a lot of people. The program was, however, for Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce. Re-education? Or re-subscription? It's perhaps unfortunate that Greg Mosher is leaving the Goodman. He had just founded the New Theatre Company dedicated to the development of new American plays without subscription. Greg has felt very strongly that subscribers have been the death of our theatre, opting for the easy, safe choices providing them with regularly spaced evenings of diversion. A bold step, a re-examination of where we are and where we need to go. But will the Beaumont meet its costs without that "deadly" subscribership Joe Papp called the "Viennese audience," that he failed to eliminate during his tenure there? After some twenty years of upward mobility, the resident theatre movement in America has reached mid-life crisis, and must look to rejuvenating itself, or face terminal "Newmanitis." With the publication of Subscribe Now!, the get-rich-quick manifesto from Danny Newman, based on his success in subscription sales for the Chicago Lyric Opera, a virtual fever swept our theatres. With the help of the Theatre Communications Group, Danny went off on an evangelical tour of the nation, preaching "Buy five, get one free!" It no longer mattered how we played the game, as long as we won. And American theatre went into the bargain-basement business. "Broadway Quality at Bargain Prices!!" screamed the Manhattan Theatre Club brochure. And you could no longer get a seat if you weren't among the chosen few. After several seasons in Chapter 11-virtual bankruptcy-the Roundabout has moved into a new 500-seat home, in Tammany Hall (!), and has just celebrated passing the 23,000 re-subscription mark for 1985-86. Guaranteed seats on the second Tuesday of every second month ... What price glory? In 1971, when Michael Langham began his seven year stint as the director of the Guthrie in Minneapolis, he put together an interesting variation on the gospel: "Five...


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pp. 91-98
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