American Repertory Theater: Finding the Profit in Nonprofit?

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By Thomas Garvey
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report

Did Weiner and Paulus get a swift kick in the ass? The Donkey Show photo by Marcus Stern

This week, the American Repertory Theater, Harvard’s 30-year-old bridge to the boho theater circuit, announced its coming season. And longtime A.R.T. watchers noticed immediately that The Donkey Show, the Shakespearean disco mashup (and commercial smash) that had been playing for months on the company’s second stage, was no longer in the lineup; it was, apparently, closing up shop. Come September, for the first time in nearly a year, the A.R.T.’s Zero Arrow Theater in Cambridge will open a new production: Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret.

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And thereby hangs a tale — or tail — but not one we’ll probably ever hear. Harvard’s code of omerta means a cone of silence has descended over The Donkey Show, despite the fact that the hour-long “play” (and attendant dance party) has packed them in since opening last fall. (There are reports that some young fans have seen it upward of 25 times.) The sudden quiet is all the more striking in that, for months, the production was riding high: Harvard seemed happy to believe that it counted as a production of Shakespeare, as its lip-synched disco hits roughly matched the fairyland intrigues of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

And the Boston press, heavy with pop critics and fans, was overjoyed to see the Zero Arrow Theater transformed into “Oberon,” complete with bar, state-of-the-art sound system and glittering go-go boys. Meanwhile, the reference to Tijuana-style sex in the title (and final image) of The Donkey Show gave the whole thing a tang of millennial skank, plus a hint of the deconstructed “edge” that the academic set loves to take to Shakespeare. So what if there wasn’t a single syllable of Midsummer in its sketchy “script”? The Donkey Show still counted as a crude approximation of Camille Paglia-style academic thinking about Shakespeare’s comedy. Thus it seemed like a perfect melding of the market and the ivory tower.

Then it all started falling apart, and many fans of The Donkey Show began to feel like asses.

On March 28, Boston Globe reporter Geoff Edgers revealed surprising details about The Donkey Show‘s financial arrangements. It turned out that Harvard had licensed the “concept” of Oberon from Paulus’ husband, Randy Weiner, a theatrical entrepreneur involved in several productions presented during his wife’s inaugural A.R.T. season. In New York, Weiner is also a part owner of The Box (as in “vagina,” I think), a controversial, high-end burlesque club, as well as the writer-producer of Caligula Maximus, a burlesque extravaganza that played at New York’s La MaMa until last month (“It simply feels underrehearsed,” sniffed the Back Stage critic.)

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When pressed by Edgers on these and other connections, Weiner (whose name, yes, really is that close to “randy wiener”) came off like a classic Harvard dork at the Playboy Mansion, shrugging off the presence of a Penthouse pet in Caligula Maximus riding a nine-foot penis and bubbling thoughtless lines like “I just want to have a good time!” Less thoughtless, however, was the deal Weiner struck with the world’s greatest university. In Boston, not only was he pulling in a royalty fee for the Oberon “concept,” he was raking in a percentage of the bar tab. “I’m winning on the promotion and I’m winning on the drink,” he foolishly told the Globe.

Meanwhile, behind closed doors, Harvard was turning crimson. Suddenly, my sources tell me, Paulus became not “edgy” but controversial; her personal enrichment from what was, after all, supposed to be a nonprofit theater space run by a nonprofit university was now being discussed in polite code: “inappropriate commercialization.” Which, of course, was exactly what Paulus & Co. had effected as they consolidated their political position within the A.R.T. For example, Edgers noted that the couple brought in Diane Borger, mother-in-law of Weiner’s business partner at The Box, Simon Hammerstein (the one accused of keeping house prostitutes), as an A.R.T. producer.

Some of the outrage surrounding “inappropriate commercialization” stemmed, no doubt, from another kind of indignation, which could perhaps be summed up as “Nobody pulls a fast one on Harvard!” But earlier justifications for The Donkey Show began to sound like so much b.s. when you could hear the ka-ching! of the cash register ringing for Paulus and Weiner in the background. As it was also ringing, it must be noted, for Harvard itself. The Zero Arrow space had been gifted to the university by dotcom millionaire Greg Carr and the A.R.T. is a constant recipient of tax dollars, yet for a full season it produced nothing in the space but The Donkey Show — which, given the constant influx of college kids into the Boston area, could potentially run for years. Even A.R.T. staff, I’ve heard, began to chafe at the arrangement when they realized students at the famed A.R.T. Institute would be forced to work around the standing set of “Oberon” when mounting their own shows in the space. Meanwhile Harvard’s insistence, in the Globe and elsewhere, that Paulus had nothing to do with her husband’s hiring or contract was becoming even more embarrassing than the whole arrangement. How else could a fringe cultural figure like Weiner skim a tidy profit off of Harvard’s nonprofit theater?

But weren’t Paulus and Weiner merely living the dream they’d conjured onstage — and with Harvard’s approval? It’s hard to pretend these Harvard grads aren’t avatars of precisely the cultural trends that have swept through the academy during the past few decades. Aside from Paulus’ Tony-nominated direction of the Broadway revival of Hair (a smash hit, thus proving Paulus had a commercial touch) and The Donkey Show‘s six-year run in New York, neither Paulus nor Weiner have any real national artistic profile of their own. Their true artistry lies in the way they have woven their careerism into the woof and warp of the academic chatter of the day – with Paulus playing the bright-eyed and pretty post-graduate front for the operation and Weiner playing, shall we say, the business end. Ironically, the very success of their careerism, their brand, is now coming back to haunt them. After all, it’s fine to play at being Baudelaire if you’re drug addicted and die young. It’s quite another thing if you embody bourgeois stereotypes and send your daughter, as Weiner told the Globe, “to a fancy nursery school” in Manhattan. In that frame, The Donkey Show no longer looked like a transgressive cross-pollination of Tijuana and Stratford-on-Avon. It looked instead like a cheap excuse for a bachelorette party.

Paulus and Co. seem to have gotten the message, what with The Donkey Show set to boogie its last in August. Or will it? After all, it’s being supplanted not by King Lear but by Cabaret — a musical which, I think it’s worth noting, can be produced in a club setting. And Weiner will once again be present for the rest of A.R.T.’s season. Paulus also has a fresh slogan for what she does — “populist art with integrity” — and she’s opening a new musical about the Red Sox, which she insists is about racism more than the home team. But can careerists really change their spots? And what precisely is the balance a nonprofit should strike with the remuneration of its staff? To ask a deeper question, is there such a balance still to be struck? Or are Paulus and Weiner merely harbingers of a new alignment in which the term “nonprofit” is all but meaningless?

More on those questions in the second part of this story.

Thomas Garvey has at various points in his checkered career impersonated a director, screenwriter, architect, strategic analyst, and Boston Globe theater critic. He’s still impersonating a critic at www.hubreview.blogspot.com, where you can read his “cantankerous, but brilliant” reviews of theater, music, art, film and dance.

  • Will Ditterline

    The Donkey Show. If I had thought of it, I would produce it, despite never wanting to see it one bit. Does that make me a Weiner?

  • Kati Mitchell

    The 2010-11 Season announcement by the American Repertory Theater includes a paragraph stating that weekend performances of The Donkey Show will continue throughout next season.

  • Whatever the financial arrangements were Oberon was and remains a good thing for Boston’s less traditional theater scene. Medium-sized (150- to 300-seat) venues are vanishing in Boston, and unless you have a long-established relationship with a site or a regurgitating some well-known property, it was getting nigh-impossible for producers to mount shows in anything like a professional setting.

    At least some of the money generated by The Donkey Show went into their space and their staff, and that was a boon for independent producers. Prior to the transformation into Oberon, using the theater at Zero Arrow Street would have been prohibitively expensive for The Boston Babydolls. Since it became Oberon, we’ve produced several profitable events there. If the A.R.T.’s commercial success allows them to subsidize independent theatrical productions in Boston, more power to them. We need more venues for small theater.

    • I take your point and I appreciate the fact that you’re sharing it with the CFR readership.

      I would only ask you to answer this question: If, as the Boston Globe alleges, there is something close to double-dealing going on at A.R.T., do you specifically support it if it benefits you? Do you believe nonprofits should provide its leaders with “inappropriate” personal enrichment if it helps small companies?

  • drinda

    Leonard (who wrote in response to Scratch, I think):

    But it doesn’t *just* benefit the Boston Babydolls — it actually has been a wonderful thing for Boston area audiences who have been looking for a reliable venue that regularly provides access to the fringiest, edgiest performance groups in the city.

    Oberon’s model, as I understand it, is that there’s no rental fee — the group instead has to guarantee a $1500 bar bill from its patrons, and the group takes the box office. A bar tab like that is pretty easy to achieve, frankly, and makes it WAY more affordable to produce there than nearly anywhere else in the area. The Calderwood Pavilion/Boston Center for the Arts has space, but is so bloody expensive to rent that it shuts out most of the smallest troupes. And Boston, unlike a lot of other urban areas, doesn’t have a run-down section of the city with empty storefronts that arts groups can cadge.

    What this means is that at Oberon, things like queer or horror or size-positive burlesques, cabaret comedy, theatrical music acts, ethnic dance groups, indie opera, groups such as All the Kings Men (an accomplished drag king sketch theatre troupe), Codeswitch7 (Af-Am performance students from Harvard), and Amanda Palmer’s Evelyn Evelyn music/performance art tour were able to produce there. You may not love everything that Oberon hosts, but I’ve been surprised this past season to see how many exciting, underground performance groups are operating in the city. I’m a theatre professional here (no, I don’t work for the ART), and I hadn’t heard of half of these guys, which is embarrassing actually. Oberon — whether you take issue with their commercial status or not — is tangibly doing great things when it comes to connecting fringe-y performers and new audiences. I’m not saying the questions about the commercial stuff don’t matter, and aren’t worth probing (they are), but that it’s not as simple as Garvey makes it out to be, and I have yet to hear a loud, authoritative voice speak up for the real honest-to-god improvement we’ve had this year in Boston’s theatrical fringe because of Oberon’s presence.

    • I did write in response and I have to ask the same question: If, as the Globe alleges, there is something close to double-dealing going on at A.R.T. — which you are not denying — do you specifically support it? Do you believe nonprofits should provide leaders with “inappropriate” personal enrichment if it helps “queer or horror or size-positive burlesques, cabaret comedy, theatrical music acts, ethnic dance groups, indie opera,” or groups such as All the Kings Men, Codeswitch7 and Amanda Palmer’s Evelyn Evelyn music/performance art tour, or any underground performance group? Is that what you’re saying?

      I mean, your statement was “I’m not saying the questions about the commercial stuff don’t matter.” If that’s the case, why not acknowledge that Harvard, Paulus, Weiner, et. al., have a fiduciary and legal responsibility to respond to the Globe’s charges? If it’s not as simple as Garvey makes it out to be, you’d have to admit, I think, that it’s not as simple as the Globe makes it out to be, either.

  • Daniel Bourque

    This “It benefits fringe groups!” meme which is developing here is tiresome, and it would be nice to see someone answer the question about the money trail. There clearly are some positive side effects to this whole situation at ART, but the ethical issues surrounding it far, far outweigh them

    The problem with The Donkey Show in the Zero Arrow space is the double nature of the way it has been presented to both audiences at ART and the Boston Theatre Community as a whole. This is a commercial event/show masquerading as a play at a non-profit institution and it’s got about as much place long term at the ART as a monster truck show. Now, if it had only run for a few weeks or months then the double dipping of Paulus and Weiner might be a little less bothersome and distasteful as there’s an exception to every rule, but it’s totally disingenuous to market it like any other play when the revenue streams are clearly not going back to the theater and are going to enrich the creators for months or years on end. The only argument I think that can be made to the contrary is if this is some kind of “Franchise” show in the way that Shear Madness/Triple Espresso/Menopause the Musical are, but I’m still under the impression that the way that those shows work from a financial perspective when they are hosted or in residence at a non-profit are a lot more clear cut then the way that The Donkey Show seems to

    Now, whether or not the event/show is of artistic worth is another thing entirely- I saw it last fall and while it’s hardly the kind of show I usually turn out for I was able to appreciate it on its own terms. If it’s an immersive event you are looking for, then you almost can’t help but get sucked into it; there are some very clever images and ideas used and I think it’s totally fair to call it an imaginative (and very loose) reworking of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I say this, by the way as someone who doesn’t like dancing, doesn’t like clubs, doesn’t like karaoke and REALLY doesn’t like disco… so, as I told a good friend of mine involved in the Burlesque scene here in Boston who also went, I can only imagine what the experience would be like for someone who appreciates those things, and I think it’s no wonder that it has been such a hit everywhere it has popped up.

    But the artistic nature and or worth of The Donkey Show is and should necessarily be completely uncoupled from the style of production. Clearly, if the money isn’t going back to the ART (and the bit about the drinks and the “Oberon” concept is especially odious) then it doesn’t belong under their rubric. The Donkey Show belongs downtown on Lansdowne Street or at someplace like the Charles Playhouse and then there would be no problem with the revenue streams going to Paulus and Weiner since it is clearly a commercial event/show intended to make money. Frankly, there’s no shame in The Donkey Show existing to make money, the shame is that the creators are co-opting and misappropriating the resources of a noted non-profit in order to do so.

  • Thomas Garvey

    I had a hunch the show would go on (as I guessed Cabaret could make do with the current Oberon set) but thanks for the correction, Kati, although I’m dismayed to learn, of course, that Donkey will continue braying at Zero Arrow, rather more obviously than ever a commercial franchise.

    For some reason “Scratch” says that medium-sized venues are “vanishing” in Boston. A strange claim, surely, as so many other observers have commented that there are “too many” such spaces up and running now, divvying up the existing theatre audience in too many different ways. I disagree with the idea that there can ever be “too much” theatre in Boston, of course, but I also have to say there’s hardly a dearth of theatre space in town. There are, in fact, two more spaces of the size “Scratch” describes, along with a small black box space, just blocks away from “Club Oberon,” in Cambridge’s Central Square – and I believe the Boston BabyDolls were last seen at the ImprovBoston space, just a few more blocks in the other direction; they’re hardly shut out of the local scene. And aren’t these appearances one-night stands? I think so.

    Still, it’s nice, I suppose, that the Pauluses (the Pauli?) have deigned to give All the King’s Men and Codeswitch 7 a chance to strut their stuff (we get too much of Amanda Palmer already, frankly). But couldn’t they have done that while donating the bar tab too? I’m afraid that unconsciously, “drinda” has made it quite clear that the Pauluses are, indeed, running the Zero Arrow Theatre as a private performance space. And you know, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it doesn’t really matter if it’s in drag – it’s still a duck.

    Just btw, Daniel anticipates some of the points I was going to make in the second part of this story. Like him, I have no problem with The Donkey Show as a commercial entertainment. If the Pauluses want to produce it on Boston’s Lansdowne St. (home of House of Blues and other clubs), they’re more than welcome to. Wouldn’t the kids still line up for it there? Even if the university moved the piece to such a commercial space, but stayed hooked up to the money trail, that would be fine (Harvard, after all, has no problem with taking $ from the Saudis, who actually make the Pauluses look good).

    What’s most troubling about all this is that, even once outed, Paulus and Weiner still felt empowered enough to keep their show on the road for another season. I’ve heard Paulus is on a five-year contract. So while “Scratch” may be happy that a new burlesque space has opened up in town, non-profit theatre types may be disappointed to realize that their performance spaces may have been reduced by one for as long as four more years . . .

  • I can’t speak to the economics, but I was appalled by the content of the show. Here’s a excerpt from the original draft of my review:

    [The Donkey Show offers] a fairly cute concept, just engaging enough to fill an hour’s running time (participatory dancing is encouraged before, during, and after). Even if the musical selections strike you as cheesy, the canned disco atmosphere too laboriously reconstituted (the real clubs, in those halcyon days pre-AIDS, were sites of spontaneous communal beauty), the experience falls somewhere within the tolerably pleasant range.

    And then, as a lagniappe, the DJ announces “some adult entertainment … a show sure to change your definition of animal husbandry forever,” and you realize, with sickening certainty, that they’re about to enact a different kind of “donkey show” entirely: the ultimate debasement that desperate Third World women have been known to undergo in back-alley sex clubs.

    Never mind that the donkey in question is a duo of Afro-wigged “Car Wash” attendants standing in for Bottom (in itself a disturbingly racist depiction) and that “Tytania” has already been characterized as an anything-for-kicks exotic dancer. That Paulus, a woman at the height of her profession, helming a ground-breaking theatre under the aegis of one of the most highly regarded universities in the world, would view such a scenario as a guarantor of cheap laughs is not just un-PC; it’s truly offensive, and a sad commentary on our supposed superiority.

  • Thomas Garvey

    I agree with Sandy completely about the repulsive sexual and racial politics of The Donkey Show, btw. Irony can stretch pretty far, but it can’t stretch this far; the idea that a woman could enjoy being penetrated by an animal is about the lowest thing I’ve ever heard come out of Harvard; it’s even more offensive to women than it is to Shakespeare (it would even be offensive to Oberon).

  • Alfred

    FYI, “The Box” is a reference to Pandora’s Box, not vagina, a supposition that says more about the remark’s author than the owner of the nightclub by that name. Creative approaches to producing within the not-for-profit model are essential, and the next big thing in the existence of live stage. Unless you prefer your theatre artists starving, worthy and obedient. So much of what is expressed by Mr. Garvey comes off as professional jeaolousy, particularly his backhand comments about Ms Paulus having no national profile in spite of her Broadway hit, which establishes only that she has “commercial flair”. Clearly he has little concept of what it takes to swim in that particular pond.

  • Thomas Garvey

    Come off it, Alfred.

  • jossc

    Below in parnth., Mr. Garvey’s pissy, out of context reference to CALIGULA MAXIMUS

    (“It simply feels underrehearsed,” sniffed the Back Stage critic.)

    Below is the full unedited review, and you will note the play was a critics pic. Clearly Mr Garvey needs to address his own journalistic ethics before he takes swipes at people who are actually creating opportunities for performers and putting themselves on the line, not in the blogosphere but in real life.

    Reviewed by Clifford Lee Johnson III
    March 22, 2010
    Backstage Critics Pic

    PHOTO CREDIT
    Lia Chang
    Jesus poses mournfully in the lobby, a topless woman in a Hula-Hoop gyrates in the foyer, a peanut vendor hawks his wares inside the theater-and then the show starts. For the next 75 minutes, the Roman emperor Caligula and 30 actors, dancers, circus performers, professional bodybuilders, and porn stars proceed to sing, dance, wrestle, murder, and float gracefully through the air in “Caligula Maximus,” the circus/musical/extravaganza at La MaMa.

    The notion behind this exuberantly aberrant piece is that Caligula is hosting a circus for the people of Rome. During its course, we are treated to the highlights and low points of his reign, including the installation of his horse Incitatus as a member of the Senate, his tragic love for his sister Drusilla, and his desire to become the empire’s chief deity. But even though Caligula bests Jesus in a wrestling match for that honor, he still cannot thwart the peanut vendor’s prophecy that his followers will turn on him before the performance ends.

    For all its vibrancy, “Caligula Maximus” is neither slick nor virtuosic. Its songs, dancing, and much of the supporting cast’s acting are weak. Often it simply feels underrehearsed. Even so, writer-producer Randy Weiner, one of the creators of “The Donkey Show,” and writer-producer-director Alfred Preisser, founding artistic director of the indispensable Classical Theatre of Harlem, manage to slip plenty of provocative ideas into their show’s taboo-tickling high jinks.

    Their wisest decision is the casting of Ryan Knowles as Caligula. He carries the entire production on his slim shoulders, imbuing the emperor with charisma, intelligence, tenderness, and a sense of irony. Almost as smart is the choice of Luqman Brown to play the peanut vendor. Flying above the set, aerialist Anya Sapozhnikova makes for an ethereal Drusilla. Porn celebrity and former Penthouse Pet Justine Joli fleshes out (literally) Caligula’s wife, Caesonia. And I predict that Tim Dax’s muscular portrayal of Incitatus will entice more than a few theatergoers into sharing Caligula’s equine passion.

    The tight five-piece rock band, led by Joe Shavel, is equal to the task of holding the chaotic action together. Evan Collier’s set design effectively transforms the Ellen Stewart Theatre into an intimate circus arena, complete with aerialist rigging. And the efforts of “whip consultant” Chris McDaniel produce crackling results.

    “Caligula Maximus” is not for everyone. If you like your theater to argue like a grad-school paper, have a pathological dread of being pulled on stage, or look at naked actors and wonder if they ever eat, you will not appreciate this production. But if you like your theater gamy and a bit rough around the edges, “Caligula Maximus” will thoroughly satisfy your desires.

  • Joss C., I won’t challenge your right to challenge Mr. Garvey, but I will challenge you to answer these questions, which is at the core of what he wrote and which none of his critics thus far have answered:

    If, as the Boston Globe alleges, there is something close to double-dealing going on at A.R.T., do you specifically support it if it benefits you? Do you believe nonprofits should provide its leaders with “inappropriate” personal enrichment if it helps small companies?

    Even more specific to your point, do you believe that if someone is “actually creating opportunities for performers and putting themselves on the line,” they are entitled to bend, flout, skirt or otherwise test the law? Or test, come to think of it, the ethics of a nonprofit theater? if you’re going to accuse Mr. Garvey of an ethical lapse, isn’t it incumbent upon you to address his central question?

    Or is it possible — remotely possible — that you’re so fired up pointing fingers and reprinting the Back Stage review in its entirety (did you not notice the link in the piece? “gamy” theater axiomatically a good thing for everyone?), that you forgot to address the ethical questions he raises?

  • Mack Velli

    The Donkey show will continue to run on Saturday and Sunday nights.
    Cabaret was chosen by Amanda Palmer and Steven Bogart. They were given cart blanche and decided on Cabaret.

  • Thomas Garvey

    Ok, so far we’ve heard from someone who’s not too good at picking up on double entendres (and who can’t spell, either), and someone who seems to be charging that I misquoted a critic with three names (and a Roman numeral, to avoid any dynastic confusion) while inadvertently revealing more complaints about the show in question (“Caligula Maximus is neither slick nor virtuosic . . . Its songs, dancing, and much of the supporting cast’s acting are weak.”) That Mr. Johnson the Third eventually made “Maxi” one of his “pics” seems merely evidence of political sympathy, political pressure, or very weak competition; at any rate, the review basically reads “If you’re part of this crowd, this show will flatter your sexual politics; if not, you’ll notice it kind of sucks.” Which could serve as a brief for The Donkey Show too, btw. Finally, we hear from a Mr. Mack Velli that Amanda Palmer is now programming one of Harvard’s theatre spaces herself. Hooray.

    As Leonard points out, none of these people are addressing – or even arguing against – the thrust of my article; perhaps because there’s really nothing to debate, is there (indeed, many of these screeds actually back up my argument!). These folks may be discomfited, but do they really disagree with my conclusion? I don’t think so; they just like the fact that a nonprofit theatre space has been commandeered for burlesque (which, not coincidentally, they perform), or somehow think that Diane Paulus isn’t rich enough, despite homes in Boston and New York, a Harvard salary, royalties from Broadway, and revenues from her husband’s strip show empire (and, of course, the bar tab at “Club Oberon”). If she shovels even more loot into her bank account, apparently that’s a victory for go-go boys everywhere, or something like that. Then there’s the even weirder idea that somehow Paulus and Weiner are “creating opportunities for performers” – uh, do you really think La MaMa went dark after Caligula Maximus? If so, let me direct you to their website, where you’ll notice opportunities for other performers are opening up every day! Indeed, a desire for “more opportunities for performers” is, ironically enough, part of what led me to decry the situation at Zero Arrow Street. As for my ethics – you may claim they’re low, but somehow I think I’m still well ahead of Paulus and Weiner.

  • roodN.E.

    The reality of this Garvey guy (whoever he is) is that he’s sad and unknown. Also obviously wishes he were directing something at Zero Arrow. A quick google search of his name reveals no acomplishments of note at any level of theater. So he seeks his natural level, a parasite on the body of living things, a flea on the ass of an elephant. Damaged souls like this, who can’t get their facts straight and compose sentences by misquoting work they don’t understand, deserve our sympathy. In the artistic realm, where they spitefully operate as resentful but loud-mouthed failures, they are best ignored. Which is what I’ll do whenever I see this name linked to anything related to theater.

    If you’ve been to the A.R.T. this year, you have to be excited by the breadth and ambition of the work, and excited by the possibilities of next season.

    • May I ask you a few questions? Or at least offer some comment?

      One, Garvey isn’t unknown. He may not be liked, but he’s not unknown.

      Two, what about his piece — which specific words — make it obvious that he wishes he were directing at Zero Arrow?

      Third, what does someone’s Google ranking have to do with their aspirations?

      Fourth, please do ignore Garvey when you see his name. You haven’t the guts the reveal your own.

      Fifth, thanks for the pro-A.R.T. rah-rah. Your inability to address Garvey’s central question, however, makes some of us wonder if you were paid to write that comment. Were you?

  • roodN.E.

    No, Leonard, sadly enough I was not paid to write that. And if you are wondering about that, you mark yourself and “some of us” as blissfully ignorant of the financial reality of not-for-profit theater, in Boston or anywhere else in the U.S.. And, Leonard, in my humble opinion anyone with an modicum of perception can read Mr. Garvey’s juvenile screeds and deduce that he is small, frustrated and jealous, He’d fall over himself getting to the phone if Ms Paulus ever bothered to call him, let’s face it Leonard. The fact that a google search of his credentials yields, well, zero credentials, speaks for itself.

    If you yourself are upset and fearful about the uses the sacred institute that is A.R.T. has been put to in the last (and future!) season(S), you should gather the relevant evidence and present it to your state’s A.G. office. If there is real wrongdoing, that is where this debate belongs. Good luck, Leonard.

    Chris.

    • Dear Chris,

      I’m not fearful at all, actually. And, let’s face it, you haven’t addressed, and you seem content to ignore, the issues that the Boston Globe raised in its piece and which Garvey, to my mind quite rightly, explores. This exploration and this communication of commentary, however much you may resent it or lambaste it or proclaim it counter to your worldview, does not alone make him frustrated, angry, jealous, small or anything else. And, as noted in my earlier comment, this notion that Google axiomatically equals aspiration is not merely inexplicable, but is itself is frustrated, angry, jealous and small.

      And while I appreciate your mastery of American jurisprudence, how do you know the Massachusetts A.G. isn’t aware of the Boston Globe piece? How do you know precisely, or to what degree, Harvard is completely sanguine with the situation? Do you speak for Harvard?

      More immediately, if you — or someone — would answer these questions, I think you’d be in a much stronger position to criticize Garvey:

      If, as the Boston Globe alleges, there is something close to double-dealing going on at A.R.T., do you specifically support it if it benefits you? Do you believe nonprofits should provide its leaders with “inappropriate” personal enrichment if it helps small companies?

      Let’s face it, Chris. You’re not answering these questions. Will you?

  • kmac

    “actually creating opportunities for performers and putting themselves on the line,” my booty.

    The Donkey Show is non-union and a notoriously low-paying gig to boot. They are underpaying the performers. Ever wonder why they always seem to be auditioning?

    There is no excuse for this. The Donkey Show is making zillions of dollars in a prime space under the guise of NFP. Paulus and Weiner are getting part of the bar tab, too?! “Let the Sun Shine In” indeed!

    (If something has changed about their labor practices I would love to know. Will applaud and eat crow, too.)

  • Mack Velli

    Theater, art, literature, cinema, press, posters, and window displays must be cleansed of all manifestations of our rotting world and placed in the service of a moral, political, and cultural idea. Public life must be freed from the stifling perfume of our modern eroticism, just as it must be freed from all unmanly, prudish hypocrisy.

  • Thomas Garvey

    Thanks, Leonard, but you don’t have to defend me from these trolls. I only wonder – do they think these silly insults are doing Diane Paulus any favors? Somehow I don’t think so. Isn’t it interesting, though, how the same themes inevitably arise in these kind of anonymous, ad hominem flames – the person with the winning argument is smeared as “jealous” and “frustrated,” while transparently self-serving “pity” is dolled out copiously. There’s almost a kind of rigor to the form. I’m a little surprised, actually, that 99 Seats and Isaac Butler haven’t dropped by for a quick chorus of “You’re sexist and racist!,” which, as we all know, is another evergreen way to shut down debate – but that may soon come! Oh, well. I’m afraid I have to run to the phone now – I’m desperately awaiting a call from Diane!! – but I will leave my detractors with a bit of advice: next time, try forming an argument in support of your position. Such a statement might begin something like: “The Donkey Show belongs in a non-profit space rather than a commercial venue BECAUSE . . .” I have to admit I’m not sure what could possibly come after that “because,” but that’s your problem

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  • Suzanne Eaton

    I just found this article and find it interesting since it was before the August Boston Globe article about Paulus’ commercialization of the A.R.T.
    I saw Donkey Show a couple times (as I was friends with some cast) and thought it was awful. I have also seen some of the other shows at Oberon (including unfortunately one of the “Burlesque” shows referred to) and for the most part, they too were awful.
    Diane and Randy are notorious for putting their pocketbooks first and stepping on whatever or whoever are in the way. They also have no respect for any of their performers- especially the Donkey Show. While they are making oodles of money off Oberon and the bar they pay a pittance to the cast. It’s absolutely disgusting and demeaning.
    They also took a great theater space and turned it into a nightclub to benefit THEMSELVES and no one else. Who’s to say the cabaret style set up of the former Zero Arrow space wouldn’t have worked for any incoming theater groups? Or for Donkey Show for that matter? They took an amazing space and gutted it.. and also left the A.R.T. Institute without a performance space- which is one of the biggest, least talked about and grossest casualties. Those students are hand picked out of hundreds and hundreds of applicants and pay a high Harvard tuition.They have been completely shafted by the Diane Paulus regime. It’s absolutely shameful. I have heard the Diane Paulus regime motto A.R.T. students joke about amongst themselves is – “Welcome to grad school- here are your pasties”.