Question of the Day — The Loop — AAPEX

Friday, August 7, 2009

Question of the Day

Gary Garrison, is Executive Director for Creative Affairs of the Dramatists Guild of America and founder of The Loop and the forum through which this question arose about the importance of Broadway in a playwright's life. Garrison's stand is to stop complaining about the cost of launching a play on the Great White Way because that's the cost of doing business in the greatest theatre district in the world. JC Lee through The Loop Online responds with a different take. Both are posted below. If you have an opinion, become a member of The Loop (it's free and you can sign up by clicking the post's title above) and respond there or here through the comments section below the post.

I’m on the Tony committee this year, which means I’m fortunate to see all the shows opening in a calendar year in New York. It’s cool, and I’m psyched.So last night I’m going to the opening of this special Broadway event – a dance extravaganza called Burn the Floor. And on the way to the theatre, I stop at a bodega to grab a pack of gum.My favorite, Dentine Ice, is right up front just waiting for me to grab it. I plop it on the counter and reach for my wallet as the counter guy – toothpick in one corner of his mouth, sipping Sprite out of the other corner – somehow manages to gurgle the price: $1.75.What? What the fuuuuuuuuuuuu? When did GUM cost more than a buck? When did GUM cost almost two bucks!? I looked at him and with all the grace of a weary New Yorker said, “Are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me? Two bucks for a pack of gum?!”To which he said, “It’s the price of gum in Times Square. You want something else, you go somewhere else.”I walked away and thought, well, he’s absolutely right. And how applicable is that to my journey? There’s a cost of doing business to you anywhere, and if I choose to do it in the theatre community of the craziest, most chaotic, most unreasonable and often times unforgiving city on the planet, then it’s my choice. So either I can shut the fuck up, or, as my bodega buddy suggested, “go somewhere else.”


First off, congrats on being on the Tony committee! Yours is a voice and view that will enrich the ceremony.

Second, I can't help but completely disagree with your "gum" analogy. Your instinct: to react with disbelief at the price, was dead-on - and writers ought to trust that instinct. To accept the absurdity of the status quo is to condemn our artistic voices to the often silly and arbitrary reasons that people in our world do the things they do. To extend your analogy out: The cost of gum is $1.75 because the economic model for preserving Broadway is an exact replica of the housing market that brought us to this disastrous place we find ourselves in: continue passing costs downward as ticket prices go up to in an artificially inflated market. Like all of New York City (of which my family was native) those who couldn't afford the "gum" were forced to move out thanks to the repeal of rent control laws. So it wasn't about having the choice to "go somewhere else", some of us were forced to thanks to the "free market" we all were supposedly "competing in".

Anyway, all this to say NO. We shouldn't simply accept the price of gum because someone somewhere says that's how much it should cost in Times Square. We should ask ourselves: "what's so Goddamn special about Times Square gum?" that merits the silly price.And we should also ask ourselves if gum is $1.75, who's really coming to see our art?

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