A Plea for Theater Producers to Become Less Predictable

Looking to the fall, a season on the brink with Billy Elliot, Shrek, 13

A leap from celluloid: Billy Elliot jetés to Broadway.
David Scheinmann
A leap from celluloid: Billy Elliot jetés to Broadway.

A similar caution seems, increasingly, to guide Off-Broadway's nonprofit institutions. I know, I know: They're up against the fiscal wall like everybody else. And they do, somehow, always mix in a few playwrights I love among those I find unendurable. Still, far too often, their choices, both lovable and unendurable, fall into a familiar range; the authors' names ring recognizable bells; a reticence about risk, about challenge, about stretching the imaginative field, is noticeably on display. I want to see that change. And the freedom to change it doesn't come from money but from feeling free, from knowing that the only obligation a new season entails is the obligation to bring the theater to life again. And life, as we know from the world outside the theater, is far from predictable. That's why it seems so exciting.

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