The 61st edition of the Avignon Festival has just ended—not that you'd know the three-week event had happened at all by reading the US press. That's okay I guess: Avignon is only one of the largest theater festivals in the world. That's probably why for the past several days the Times' chief critic, Ben Brantley, has been blogging about his theater marathon in London; typically, it started off with a show starring Orlando Bloom. Meanwhile, Avignon has presented productions staged by the likes of Frank Castorf, Ariane Mnouchkine, Rodrigo Garcia, Sasha Waltz and Romeo Castellucci. And that's only the ones who might ring a bell among NYC theater freaks. I mean, just look at the photo on the left: Doesn't it make you want to see more? At least you will be able to for this particular one: It's from Castellucci's show, Hey Girl!, which is coming to Montclair in February.
What's frustrates me is this lack of inquisitiveness about what's happening in the field you're meant to be covering. If you're going to spend some time across the Atlantic, wouldn't it make sense to also cross the Channel and poke around? Wouldn't you be the least bit curious? Wouldn't you want to experience theater that's completely different from what we see here, instead of just a more competent version of our regular fare? (For make no mistake, that's what London offers.) Reading the Times, you would never know that in the past 10, 15 years, an entire generation of directors has rethought European theater, and that a new generation is now coming up to scramble up the parameters all over again.
Compare this attitude with The New Yorker's Alex Ross, who regularly covers a wide geographical area. Typically, he just wrote a piece about a new opera titled Alice in Wonderland that just premiered in Munich (check out the mouth-watering video here). What's great about the article is how Ross translates the appeal of the production for the likes of me, someone with an interest in the field but who isn't a hardcore buff. He also makes it very clear why covering this type of show is important not only for American readers, but for the health of the American opera scene itself.
1 day ago