A member of the press comes out as a “Broadway Bolter.”
When one person emails me with an idea for a blog, I consider it.
When five people email me with the same idea, I strongly consider it.
Yesterday, ten people emailed me, four sent smoke signals, and one sent a raven from Game of Thrones.
What got them all in a tizzy?
It was a
article confession by The Wall Street Journal culture commentator Joanne Kaufman, who admitted that she walks out of Broadway shows after only one act . . . all the time. She calls it “bolting,” and from the tone of the article it sounds like she “1st acts” shows more often than not. The Last Ship, Kinky Boots, Matilda, and Pippin are just a few examples of shows she quit on. Conversely she only cites three examples of shows she stuck around for, and one opened in 2008. She calls shows that she sees from beginning to end “exceptions.”
What’s upsetting to me, and to all those folks that got in touch with me about her full disclosure, is that she is a member of the press, and is given free tickets to all of these productions. What’s worse is that she even admits to being “embarrassed by how unembarrassed” she is of walking out of shows.
Frankly, it just doesn’t sound like she enjoys the theater that much.
And if you don’t enjoy the theater? You shouldn’t be working in the theater. You have a responsibility to take yourself out of the game, Ms. Kaufman. This article screams out like a cry to be fired . . . to be taken off the beat . . . and I truly hope your editor does just that. But the stronger move, the move that we’d actually respect much more than this article, is for you to say, “Hey, this art form deserves respect . . . these writers, these actors, these designers, stagehands, ushers, and yes, these Producers deserve respect . . . and I’m just not giving them that right now, so let me give this post to someone who actually gives a sh@t.”
Now look, I’m going to be honest, I’ve left shows at intermission before. There was a time in my life when I never thought I’d do such a thing. Twenty years of seeing shows later, when I know that there is nothing I can learn from what I’m seeing, and there is no way I’m going to enjoy it, then yeah, I might take a pass on Act II. But, first of all, that is an “exception.” Second of all, I’m not being paid to take in theatrical events with the thought that I might write about them. And if one of these exceptions gets a Tony nomination and that’s why I was sitting in those seats? Well, then, I have to abstain from that category. And I do.
I’d love to believe that the Broadway Press Agents and Producers will no longer give Ms. Kaufman comps to shows, but that won’t happen. Why? Well, unless a show is a monster hit, then the Press Agents will argue, “Sure, she leaves most of the time, but what if this time she stayed? And then she could write about it, and then you get some press!” And since Producers are so desperate for free publicity, they’ll take the chance, even though Ms. Kaufman has just admitted that the odds of the show recouping are greater than the odds of her sticking around for Act II.
We’re not going to stop giving you tickets, Ms. Kaufman. We’re on the other side of an abusive relationship. You insult us, neglect us, and then you brag about it. But we’ll still invite you to our bed.
Do us a favor. Turn down the invite. Go find something you actually enjoy. The theater and you will be better off for it.
You can read the article here. And throw a comment in their stream and maybe an email to the editor while you’re at it.
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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.