February 4, 2007

In Box - Letter to the Editor

Last week brought an interesting article in the Boston Globe by Louise Kennedy, and today an equally interesting reply from the Huntington. Michael Maso sent the staff and board a note including his response earlier this week, and he had hoped that the Globe would print our lengthy reply in full. They did not. This link will send you to the edited reply they printed, in case you want to see what was cut, but here is the Letter the Editor in full:

To the Editor:

In last Sunday’s Globe, Louis Kennedy referred to Huntington Artistic Director Nicholas Martin as a "Broadway-centric show-businessman" and criticized the occasional appearance of famous actors such as Kate Burton and Nathan Lane, even while she acknowledged the excellence of their performances. "I'd get more genuine excitement” she wrote, “from watching a relative nobody in a play that a director feels driven to stage."

I share Ms. Kennedy’s pleasure in seeing new faces on stage, and there are plenty of them in any Huntington production. The Cherry Orchard has a mix of some of the best-known actors of New York and Boston, alongside lesser-known performers and some BU theatre students. Part of the excitement of the theatre is seeing a veteran performer interact with a newcomer, and of bringing the very best actors possible — even famous ones — to Boston.

So what, exactly, is Ms. Kennedy’s concern? Does she think that our directors are not driven to direct the work we produce? That certainly isn’t the case. The Cherry Orchard is one of the greatest of all plays, and Nicholas Martin has wanted to direct it for many years. Is the problem that Kate Burton, one of the country's most accomplished stage actresses, wants to play a great role; or that she treasures her artistic relationship with Mr. Martin and the Huntington; or that audiences are interested in seeing Ms. Burton on stage?

Any glance at the Huntington's full schedule of productions makes it clear that stars don't drive our programming. But serving our artists and exciting our audiences is what the Huntington is about, and there are supremely gifted actors with national profiles who can help us make that happen. We have no intention of turning our backs on them — or on our audiences — either during Mr. Martin's tenure or during that of his successor.

Later in the article Ms. Kennedy expressed a wish for the Huntington to “find more ways to work with other theatres in town” and “increase outreach to local schools…which are the source of the next generation of theatregoers.” These comments make it appear as if the Globe is unaware of the Huntington's significant efforts in both areas.

When the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion opened at the Boston Center for the Arts in 2004, it became a home for new American plays produced by the Huntington and a linchpin in strengthening the city’s theatre scene. The Huntington uses these new facilities for our own work less than 20% of the available weeks; the rest of the weeks are used by more than 40 other, mostly smaller, non-profit companies, such as Speakeasy Stage Company and The Theater Offensive, Opera Boston and Snappy Dance Theatre, allowing them to expand their own artistic and institutional capacities, for which they pay rents that are subsidized by the Huntington. The Boston Theatre Marathon, the African American Theatre Festival, Boston Public School System’s TheatreFest and other educational fundraisers benefit from an even stronger level of Huntington sponsorship.

The Huntington also created BostonTheatreScene.com, which provides ticketing services and marketing support for companies using the Pavilion venues, the two other BCA theatre venues, and the BU Theatre. It’s one of the city’s most popular theatre web destinations, selling almost 50,000 tickets to non-Huntington productions last year.

Our 25-year commitment to theatre education in Greater Boston is second to none. The Huntington’s student matinee program serves thousands of students each year, providing most with a student club card that gets them free admission until they are 21. Dedicated staff members and teaching artists visit 100 schools each year. We provide after-school programs for budding young actors and playwrights, teach students backstage workings, run the statewide “Poetry Out Loud” program for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, work with youth organizations and the Boston Municipal Court to present shows that teach legal rights and responsibilities, and have had great success using theatre training and dramatic literature as the core of Dorchester’s acclaimed Codman Academy charter school's humanities programs.

I invite a reporter to spend time with our education staff members over the next few months, and would be delighted if the Globe wanted to devote anywhere near the number of column inches as it did this past Sunday to an upcoming edition, this time to bring greater awareness of these vitally important programs to your readers. As Ms. Kennedy indicated, the future of our next generation of theatregoers is at stake.


Michael Maso

Managing Director

Huntington Theatre Company


Thomas Garvey said...

It's worth noting that the edition of the Globe that I read actually cut much of the final paragraphs of Maso's text (about the company's education outreach). Kennedy's implication that the Huntington was somehow out of touch with the community, was, indeed, pretty daffy, if not outright professionally irresponsible, and deserved a riposte. I too, of course, have been irritated when Nicky Martin's New York friends didn't show up for scheduled shows - but this is because they're IN DEMAND, or at least more in demand than the ART's artists (who always show up!).

Kellie said...

Michael's response is a perfect example of why the Huntington has been so successful under his leadership.