Last week I sent out a little survey to our staff, inviting them to name five shows we have done in the past five years which in their view had the greatest artistic merit.
My poll asked them to consider only the artistic value of the show—not its box office or its value as team experience. In other words, if the show lost money and drove us all nuts, but we still thought the final product was terrific it had to go on our list. I did not supply a criterion for "artistic" apart from saying that it was the work we were most proud of and excited about doing.
My poll was sent out to nine staff members. And yes, we have WINNERS!!! And they are:
GOLD MEDAL (7 votes) : HAMLET
SILVER MEDALS (4 votes): DAR AL-HARB, ANTONIO'S REVENGE
BRONZE MEDALS (3 votes): GRAPES OF WRATH, DOUBT, STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, FRANKENSTEIN
HONORABLE MENTIONS (2 votes): VENUS AND ADONIS, BLITHE SPIRIT, MISS JULIE, THE METAMORPHOSES
What conclusions might the artistic director draw from this survey as we approach that time when we think about what shows we'll be doing next year? Here are a few:
- We do some of our best work when we do plays written by great writers: Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Williams, Noel Coward and Strindberg were all winners. Perhaps its not surprising that the most famous play ever written took our gold medal. Let's face it, our staff is a classy bunch.
- We like our new work—our really new work. Two of our top seven winners were world premieres, and another hadn't been professionally produced in over 400 years, which makes it so old it's new. We are utterly fearless, going where no one else has dared to go—at least now and then.
- We are generally proud of what we do—we've produced 33 shows in the last eight years (I am not counting those imported from elsewhere), and 17 were named on at least one ballot. That speaks to a pretty high level of artistic consistency, at least as viewed from within.
- We think we're getting better. Seven of our eleven top vote getters were produced in the last two years. Of course this may mean theatre folk have very short memories,which is why they are always living so intensely in the present, slogging and blogging away.
- Any time we do a show with lots of water some of us will think it has great artistic merit.
So what, according to our staff, should we be producing next season? Actually it looks like we'll go for almost anything as long it's a complete re-invention of work by a great writer. How about a rap version of Oedipus Rex set in a fish tank? I like it.