Thursday, July 16, 2015

James Bovard Versus Synetic Theater

Updated July 31, 2015

So this has been an interesting exchange. I am still processing it myself, so I thought I would just put the relevant articles/links here.

A disclaimer: I have performed with Synetic Theater in a couple of shows and have been a company member.

That being said, I'm curious what others think. And here we go with the opinion piece that started it:
In Act 5 of “Love’s Labor Lost,” one character scoffs at pedants: “They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.” The latest Shakespeare fashion, at least in the Washington area, is to invite people to a feast of language and serve nothing but grunts, grimaces and grins—with a few gyrations thrown in for dessert. 
A Silenced Shakespeare in Washington [Opinion] - Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2015
To which Synetic Theater replied:
To begin, it is unclear to us from The Wall Street Journal’s latest opinion piece whether or not the writer James Bovard has seen a Synetic production, or whether his opinion has been formed from YouTube videos and editorial content from other publications. 
A response to “The Wall Street Journal” and James Bovard - July 14, 2015
The Washingtonian picked up this exchange:
Wall Street Journal contributor James Bovard has a message for Arlington’s Synetic Theater and its wordless productions of William Shakespeare plays: Recite the script, or get off the stage. 
Bovard, a libertarian policy analyst by day, writes in an op-ed in Tuesday’s Journal that Synetic’s silent, sultry, and often fleshy productions are turning traditionally high-fiber theater into empty calories. 
Wall Street Journal to Synetic Theater: Do Shakespeare With Words! - July 14, 2015
James attempted to reply on his blog:
My Wall Street Journal piece on Washington’s Silent Shakespeare Oxymoron outraged Synetic Theater and its devoted fans.  Synetic posted a long response on Tumbler and hit the alarms. The Washingtonian did an informative article this evening on the controversy – “Wall Street Journal to Synetic Theater: Do Shakespeare With Words!” 
Shakespeare Backlash and Brawl - July 14, 2015
Howard Sherman, Arts Management Guru (yes, I've got a bit of a professional crush on him), joined the conversation with this:
Seemingly out of nowhere, The Wall Street Journal published a column yesterday, “A Silenced Shakespeare in Washington: Shakespeare without puns is like French cooking without butter,” which slams the work of Washington D.C.’s Synetic Theater for their movement-based productions of Shakespeare, productions which have garnered critical and popular acclaim for more than a decade. What’s curious about this op-ed cum review, written by a contributor who is not a member of the paper’s arts staff, and certainly not their widely-traveled critic Terry Teachout, is that not only does it seek to demolish Synetic’s work, but to trash anyone who might enjoy or support that work. 
Verbally Attacking ‘Shakespeare Without Words’ - July 15, 2015

The Washington City Paper also jumped into the fray, with this blog post:
Taking as his inspiration the upcoming Synetic Theater revival of its movement-driven Midsummer Night’s Dream, noted twat troll theater expert James Bovard decries the use of NEA grants to fund the “grunts, grimaces, and grins” produced by a pair of husband-and-wife nepotists—“raised in Soviet Georgia,” which should have given us a clue—who’ve made a career of wresting the spoken word from the cold dead hands of the Swan of Avon.
 A Response to the WSJ‘s Defense of Traditional Shakespeare - July 16, 2015
And now, a tweet from Fox News:

Then this DCist piece in response to a Fox news program called Outnumbered, which did a segment about the controversy.
The drama surrounding the Synetic Theater's series of wordless Shakespeare productions continues, with Fox News (who else were you expecting?) weighing in. 
In a rather misleading (what else were you expecting?) report, the hosts of Outnumbered—the show whose premise is four women to one man discuss current events—give their opinions on the production. The conversation was based almost entirely on the Wall Street Journal opinion piece that sparked this whole thing. None of them, it seems, had seen their shows. 
Fox News Piles On The Criticism Of Synetic's Silent Shakespeare - July 24, 2015
Blair Ruble, former Board Member of Synetic Theater, shared this on HowlRound:
In mid-July, The Wall Street Journal published a criticism of Arlington’s Synetic Theater by Libertarian commentator James Bovard, the author of the fittingly titled book Public Policy Hooligan. Bovard’s critique focuses as much on the fact that Synetic has received funding from public coffers as anything having to do with what Synetic has put on stage. It’s not made clear whether Bovard has ever attended a Synetic performance. Bovard’s concerns were picked up by Fox News where a posting by Elizabeth Harrington a week later shouted scandal with a headline that read “Feds spent $95,700 to adapt Shakespeare without words.” 
Physical Theatre and Public Policy Hooliganism - July 31, 2015

Anyway, that's it. So far. What do you think of any and/or all of this? Leave a comment.

- JR aka Nexus
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