As many of you have no doubt read elsewhere, the end of the Provincetown Playhouse story is essentially that NYU pledges to leave the four walls of the theatre alone while demolishing everything else around it. And now the community board, composed largely of people exhausted from having to constantly battle NYU — and who, some have said, have been bribed or strong-armed or otherwise persuaded to drop their opposition to NYU devourment of Greenwich Village– has unfortunately endorsed the idea.
I could not be at the community board meeting at which this was discussed and voted upon due to the need for me to be at the American Theatre Critics Association conference in DC. However, I did receive a long update from Andrew Berman of the Greeenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which I am pasting in below for everyone’s edification. (Update: Andrew has just emailed me and asked me not to post the contents of his email blast, so I have removed it.)
Knowing that Andrew reads this blog from time to time, I take something of a calculated risk in publishing what I am about to write, but I would also be remiss if I did not say it: I feel there were ways in which Andrew’s approach to the matter might have been more effective. Andrew has made no secret of his desire to run for office soon, and obviously he must work with the many and varied members of the community on other projects, so his risk factor rises in proportion to the monumentality of his tactics. That said, it should be perfectly obvious to anyone with a brain and a pulse that the cause of preservation in the Village — at least where NYU is concerned — requires a frothing pitbull to get anything done. Really, what I’ve learned here is the community board doesn’t have the cojones to fight beyond a certain point, and NYU’s Alicia Hurley, otherwise known as the university’s designated pitbull, knows it and operates under the assumption that she can wear people down and wear people out and simply outlast them and their opposition.
In the case of the Provincetown Playhouse, I was perfectly happy to be the pitbull in question. However, I don’t live in the neighborhood and as I am far from an architectural historian, I could not advocate for much beyond the perpetuation of the theatre — it was hard for me to make the case for preserving the surrounding buildings without enough of a background to do so. It seems to me, in addition, that Andrew could quite easily have been said pitbull for his position (to save the surrounding buildings as well as the theatre) if he wished to, but that he did not want to go beyond a certain point to do so — the point at which his political ambitions would have been put into jeopardy.
It’s Andrew’s right, of course. But I believe the moment that personal and political ambition supercedes civic duty is the moment when one begins retreating from one’s cause.
To be clear, I remain very fond and respectful of Andrew, and I’d run to his side in a New York minute if he needed me in the future. If I didn’t feel sure he finds me too much of a pitbull — I got that vibe — I’d even skip writing this entirely and imagine how I might go about working with him or for him, perhaps, in the future. In fact, one of the things I learned about the Provincetown Playhouse episode is how much of a charge I get out of fighting for what I believe in politically — and that we, as a civic society, lack enough people with cojones to really rabble-rouse. But I would probably never be considered for such an opportunity and so I wrote this.
And anyway, as a result of all this, the Playhouse will live — but be underused and misused and fundamentally mismanaged, although I might add that one of the more amusing moments of the community board pre-meeting I attended was when one of the members of the faculty of the Educational Theatre department at NYU’s Steinhardt School stood up in the middle of the aisle and started screaming at me about how their stewardship of the Provincetown Playhouse has been absolutely unassailable and impeccible. The gentleman doth protest too much. (It’s pretty much common knowledge that the Playhouse, which is owned by the NYU Law School, is leased to the Ed. Theatre people and that the Ed. Theatre people, many of whom I studed with years and years ago at NYU, have been willing to make the venue available to the Tisch School of the Arts people, but at an outrageous premium — that’s why Tisch actors can’t perform at this world-famous venue.)
And — oh yeah — Alicia Hurley will now be able to forge on with her madness, her lies and her cheating, her contempt and raging, blithering hatred for the community in which she works and lives.
(And just to be clear about that, I’m not done battling Hurley yet. She may think she’s won the battle, but the forces of the good and just will win the war. We’ll do it legally and memorably. So don’t relax, Alicia. You’ll be dealt with in due time. Due time.)
Sorry if this post was not as grammatically pure as some — I’m writing quickly and will likely come back to this post and clean it up here and there.