Is the Public Theater Replying to Isherwood’s Shakespeare Slam?


At the Clyde Fitch Report, we try whenever possible not to draw conclusions where conclusions cannot be drawn. So this post really could be filed under I for “Irony” more than anything else.

You may recall Charles Isherwood, second-string theater critic of the New York Times, wrote several weeks ago about the upcoming residency of the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Park Avenue Armory, and how he used the piece to slam the state of Shakespeare — both production level and quality — in New York City.

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The article infuriated much of the New York theater community and earned Isherwood, who doesn’t much care what artists think in the first place, a letter to the editor that was heavily promoted via Facebook.

(We cannot confirm at this time whether the Times received an actual letter or whether they considered printing it.)

What Isherwood’s article did, too, was expose a serious rift in the theater community. Whereas some people think New York City offers a multitude of excellent Shakespeare, and all Isherwood has to do is open his eyes to it, others think he has a point: there is a difference between Shakespeare and world-class Shakespeare. For what passed as due diligence in his piece, Isherwood cited a few organizations that mount revivals of the Bard, including the Public Theater. Formerly known, years ago, as the New York Shakespeare Festival, the name change signifies that there’s less explorations of the Bard coming out of the Public than years ago.

Or is that really so? A friend of the CFR forwarded this email, below. Now, this program has been in the works for some time, so it would be in error to conclude that this is a response to Isherwood’s critical castigation. But the timing of this event makes you think twice.


Don’t miss out on the first Shakespeare Salon benefiting The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Initiative.

Curated by the director of the Shakespeare Initiative Barry Edelstein, The Shakespeare Salon is a series of conversations with the acclaimed artists whose charge is to interpret the works of Shakespeare on the stages of The Public Theater. Wide ranging, freewheeling, and fun, The Shakespeare Salon will provide The Public’s audience with intimate behind-the-scenes access to the extraordinarily talented actors, directors, composers, designers, and other artists whose work makes The Public Theater the leading producer of Shakespeare in America.

The inaugural Shakespeare Salon will be held on March 11th, 2010 from 6-8pm at Double Crown (316 Bowery at Bleecker St).

The affordable admission price of $25 will include a glass of wine and access to preferred dinner seating following the program. Contact the Public Theater Development Office to reserve your spot today at (212) 539-8734 or email us at Space is limited and reservations are strongly suggested.

After the Salon, Double Crown will be offering a $35 Nona menu for Public Theater guests. Inspired by family-style banquet dining of Singapore and Malaysia, Double Crown’s chefs have found some of the most delicious examples of cuisine born out of a mingling of Chinese and South East Asian communities that dates back to the 16th Century. The menu is a progression of several courses to be shared by the table.”