Friday, June 21, 2013

AP's Arts Decision and the Slow Death of "Niche Culture"

Off-Broadway plays like Detroit at Playwright Horizons
will no longer be reviewed by the AP.
Credit: Jeremy Daniel
In a recent email, AP theater critic Mark Kennedy explained the wire service would be severely restricting its news, reviews, and features on Off-Broadway, opera, and dance. Kennedy explains the AP's clients who run their stories are fine with reviews of music (presumably pop, rock, etc., none of that classical crap), books (presumably best sellers), movies (blockbusters), and TV (reality). But they actually resent reviews of high-toned, elitist stuff like opera, dance, and Off-Broadway. OK, I added the adjectives, but resenting Off-Bway? Maybe these resentful newspapers feel their readers can't get to Off-B'way so why should they run reviews. Evidently Broadway is still OK. But how long before AP starts cutting reviews of Main Stem shows with no major names in them? Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? They never heard of Tracy Letts in Podunk, North Dakota, so forget it. I suppose if Kim Kardashian starred as Medea Off-Broadway, they'd review that.

The email explains the AP clients feel the service's resources could be better used elsewhere and they have to listen to the people who pay the bills. That's the real answer--Money. AP is making less money because of the Internet, so they have to cut something. As Pippin says, "In economic hard times, the arts are the first thing to go."

This shrinking coverage of so-called "niche culture" is ironic. With the advent of the Internet and its infinite amount of space, it would seem logical that there would be more arts coverage, not less. But huge corporations have bought up so much media that they are looking at their bottom line. (Just like I thought there would be more theater on TV thanks to cable, but there's much less. A&E and Bravo used to be focused on the fine arts, but now they are all about Duck Dynasties, Storage Wars, and Real Housewives  The explicitly arts-oriented Ovation did not adapt and has withered away.)

Dance, opera, Playwright Horizons, Second Stage, MCC, The New Group, Manhattan Theatre Club, soon all those will only be written about by unpaid bloggers.

Tonight I'm going to see a rebroadcast of the Met's Carmen in HD at a small independent theater in Hudson, NY. Every time I go to these broadcasts, I'm the youngest person in the audience and I'm in my 50s. With AP's decision, the greying and marginalizing of the arts will continue.

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