A Seasonally Adjusted Ghost Story

To improve New York theater could take a Dickens of an update

“Why—" Carol paused, reflectively. “They do the plays that other nonprofits are doing.”

“Or the ones people like us bring them,” said Carl, “along with our enhancement money.”

“So,” said Theater Present sternly, folding his arms,”Everybody is doing plays that somebody else likes. So much for taste. So much for enterprise.”

“Sometimes the nonprofits commission,” Carol said defensively.

“And do you commission?” asked Theater Present. He glared at her, a threatening thundercloud.

“Why not find artists you like and hire them to create shows just for you?” asked Theater Past. “It always worked in my time. “And while you’re looking for them, why not read a thousand plays from the past and discover for yourself what makes a play great?”

“Why not ponder the life of your time,” queried Theater Present. “Look beyond the theater, to the art galleries, the new-music venues, poetry, fiction, politics. You might find great commercial success in connecting audiences to the world around them.”

“Risk—excitement—surprise,” Yet to Come chimed in. “Without them, profitability, like art, grows stale and dies.”

“That’s why we’ve come,” announced Theater Past. “Your theater has grown stale, profit and nonprofit sectors alike. It needs an awakening.”

“Awakening to what?” Carol asked, wide-eyed.

“To everything,” roared Theater Present. “To the magic and truth of the past, to the gravity and wildness of the present, to the early hints of what the future will bring.”

“And its economics—your department—need reconfiguring,” chirruped Yet to Come. “Too many people can’t afford to attend. Where’s the profit for you in that?”

“Your revisals wreck the old shows,” said Theater Past, “and your new shows feel like revivals. Why not leave the old shows as they are, and hunt for newness in the new?”

“Unplug and go green!” cheeped Yet to Come. “Reconfigure the experience! New modes of theater lie ahead.”

“New artists are here, ready for you,” shouted Theater Present, expansively.

“And our history,” cried Theater Past, “ever rich with treasure, lies in wait for your exploring.”

“You must!” they all murmured, coalescing again into a gray pillar of smoke. “You must—”

The smoke flowed over the Commercials and vanished as swiftly as it had come. Somewhere a church clock tolled one.

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