Upsetting the Record Straight 

Thursday, Jul 17 2003

Page 3 of 3

In the last few years, so much attention has been given to theater revivals that it raises the question: How do you honor and keep alive theater classics while simultaneously fostering new works and new talents?

I’m not sure. Because the fact that you’re doing new plays doesn’t mean you’re doing new ideas and new voices.

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Sometimes people argue that there isn’t enough money for the arts. I’m not sure that’s really the problem. I think it’s that the resources are going to the same people. If that money went to different kinds of people, the theater would look completely different from what it does today, with the resources that we currently have. There are plenty of people who are spending money on movies and CDs who would come to the theater if it spoke to them.

My play, Carson McCullers, got horrible reviews, but we sold 94 percent of the run. I would stand in the lobby and wonder, who are these people? It was lesbians, gay men and people who had read my books for 20 years, people who would never go uptown or pay $40 a ticket; they heard that there was a play for them and they came. These are people who know not to trust The New York Times. They showed up and supported the play and they loved it. Marion [McClinton, McCullers’ director] and I talked a lot about the critical reaction to the play, and at one point he said to me, “I’m black and you’re a lesbian, and ain’t none of these critics black or lesbian.” And it was this moment of triumph, because we realized — or, I realized because I think he already knew — that we had won because we had gotten our voices at a level where people like us did not have evaluative power, and that was huge. It was huge.

The Burning Deck is being performed at the La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla; performances Tuesdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; matinees Saturdays and Sundays, 2 p.m.; through August 3. Call (858) 550-1010.

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