We Still Have the Magic

I'm so proud of Evita. I'm so proud of pretty much every show we do. With every single show, we do the absolute best work we can do, we put every ounce of energy and heart and thought into it, and we give 110% to every audience who walks in our doors. I really love the work we do. Thankfully, lots of other people do too.

But I'm also realizing lately how proud I am of this company we've all built. As we approach the opening of our 20th season this fall, I love what New Line Theatre has become. I love that people who've worked with us on just one show will ask me, "What are we doing next season?" -- we, not you. They immediately feel ownership. I love how often I hear folks repeat one of our catch-phrases, "Once a New Liner, always a New Liner." It sounds like a cliche to say we're a "family" and I'm not sure that's exactly what we are. I think it's more accurate to say we're a close-knit community of like-minded artists. We don't just "do shows." There's a philosophy behind what we do.

And I think that goes to the very heart of what makes New Line successful and what has given us such amazing longevity. We never set out to make a hit. We never set out to have fun. We never set out to make money. Instead, everyone involved knows that our only goal is to make good art. To say something. To move an audience. To make them think. To challenge them. The fun comes from that -- and sometimes so does commercial success (as with Evita)...

And we are fierce (one of our favorite words) about that endeavor. As much as I enjoy an old-fashioned musical now and then, personally I can't see the point in working on a show like The Drowsy Chaperone or Nunsense. What does that contribute to the world? Laughs? Well, sure, but I defy you to find a show that delivers more laughs than Bat Boy, Urinetown, Spelling Bee, or The Robber Bridegroom. We often have our audience rolling on the floor (usually metaphorically speaking), laughing their asses off. But we also offer them more than that. We also get them thinking about intolerance among so-called "Christians" (Bat Boy), the mindlessness of much political activism (Urinetown, which may be even more relevant today, now that I think about it), the incredible, destructive pressure our society now imposes on most of us (Spelling Bee), or the dangerous morality hidden behind much of mainstream American culture (The Robber Bridegroom). Even though these are not all new shows, they all speak powerfully to our culture today. And that's why they're worth doing.

When you can give an audience both fun and insight, big laughs and social criticism, why settle for just laughs? Acting guru Stella Adler once said, "Unless you give the audience something that makes them bigger – better – do not act."

Art can be fun. Art can be rowdy and rude and aggressive and wildly entertaining. That seems to be news to too many people. I think it always surprise folks working with us for the first time how seriously we take the work, even when we're working on Urinetown or Bat Boy. It makes them Bigger. I love to watch the new New Liners go from "musical theatre freaks" to "musical theatre artists," from cultural outcasts to tribe shamans. It's a transition you can actually see happening.

And then when the reviews start coming in, the new folks get the proof, if they need it, that our seriousness is not bullshit. We make really good art.

One of the great joys for me in reading the New Line blogs -- with every single production, a bunch of us working on the show keep ongoing blogs chronicling the creation process -- is reading over and over and over again that working with New Line is the most amazing theatre experience many people have ever had. It's like eating McDonald's hamburgers all your life, and then someone sets down a really great steak in front of you. It's like watching romantic comedy movies all your life and then seeing a Fellini film for the first time. Your perception of what is possible gets upended. Your eyes get opened.

And believe me, that's not all my doing. The credit for the immense joy we all get with each new project goes to every single artist that works with us, who throws themselves heart and soul into the work and collectively creates something wonderful and transcendent to share with our audiences.

Once you've had that experience, it's tough to go back to working on crap.

I'm just sayin'.

Long Live the Musical!