Alec Baldwin Talks ORPHANS' Early Closing, Blasts New York Times' Ben Brantley

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The producers of the Tony Award-nominated play ORPHANS announced yesterday that the Broadway production will play its final performance on May 19 after 27 previews and 37 regular performances at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street). The production began performances on March 26 and opened on April 18 starring Alec Baldwin, Ben Foster and Tom Sturridge and is directed by Daniel Sullivan.

The always outspoken Baldwin, writing an op-ed for the Huffington Post, described his experience on Broadway over the past 21 years, going back to 1992's A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE.

"The New York Times is still a key player in the life of a Broadway production," Baldwin writes. "The imprimatur of the Times serves as a necessary guide for people who do not have limitless resources to buy tickets, or are traveling to New York to enjoy the theatre and need a reliable opinion as to where to invest their time and money."

He goes on to contrast reviewer Frank Rich, who served as chief theatre critic for the Times from 1980 to 1993, to current head critic Ben Brantley.

The scathing essay - which, in part, describes Brantley as an "odd, shriveled, bitter Dickensian clerk" - addresses Brantley's question of "why bother?" with an ORPHANS revival. "I bothered because of you, Lyle, and your beautiful and weird writing." Baldwin says. "Without playwrights, there is nothing."

Read the piece here and below:

Our Broadway production of Lyle Kessler's Orphans will close on Sunday, May 19th, well in advance of its scheduled end-of-run on June 30th. I have not acted in a legit show on Broadway since A Streetcar Named Desire in 1992, having chosen the not-for-profit route on Broadway or regional for my last four shows. Broadway has changed in the past 21 years and I wanted take a moment to look at that.

Streetcar was produced by The Shubert Organization, among others. Jerry Schoenfeld, now represented on Broadway by his legacy and the house we currently occupy, was very much alive then and seemed keenly interested in teaching me some of the ropes of selling tickets to a non-musical production. Whatever tensions we had during the mounting of Williams' iconic drama, and there were a few (can you say Maria St. Just?), Jerry made sure that none of that sullied our public relations. Bad press about films or shows of any kind can negatively affect your chances. The opportunity to influence an audience through any kind of well-conceived or well-timed ad campaign is lost. First impressions do count. If "trouble" is that first impression, it's difficult to swim out of that riptide.

Our show involved the firing of an actor. Those things do happen. I've been fired before and I can tell you it's not pleasant. But the tabloid culture that dominates the media today, with its jettisoning of nearly all journalistic tenets, rushes to paint the most sensational and, at times, least fact-based presentation of a story. Whatever information that is the most damning/salacious/judgmental is posted as quickly as possible and replaced by the next "event" even more quickly.

I assure you that, in the case of Orphans, every professional consideration and courtesy was extended to the "aggrieved" party and, sometimes, it's just not meant to be.

Tabloid journalism, and its viral impact through the Internet in particular, has changed Broadway since 1992.

The New York Times is still a key player in the life of a Broadway production. The imprimatur of the Times serves as a necessary guide for people who do not have limitless resources to buy tickets, or are traveling to New York to enjoy the theatre and need a reliable opinion as to where to invest their time and money. In 1992, Frank Rich, of course, was the chief theatre critic for the Times. Rich was feared by many and even loathed by some. However, Rich was viewed as a critic who was both a good writer and someone who actually understood something about what was happening on stage. After Frank was gone, many talked about how intelligent and fair he was.



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