Monday, December 29, 2008

I feel like I have to comment on this NYT article about replacing Jeremy Piven in Speed-The-Plow:

With minimal time to focus on the play’s precise verbal exchanges, Mr. Butz said he had to concentrate on committing the lines to memory and speaking them with as much energy as he could muster. After one week of rehearsal (during which the role of Bobby was played by Jordan Lage), Mr. Butz began performing “Speed-the-Plow” on Tuesday.

We're all excited about the drama of replacing an actor in a play, to the point that it is beginning to seem like every play should have an "accident" to help make it noteworthy...but what I have to comment on is this:

At the Wednesday evening performance (which was preceded by a short speech from a stage manager who elliptically spoke of the “extraordinary circumstances” that brought Mr. Butz to the show), he was not yet off book; a prompter had to remind him of his lines on a couple of occasions, and he read from a script during the play’s second and third scenes.

Still on book? Seriously?

Give me a fucking break.

Mr. Butz has a week to prepare before a week of rehearsals, and he is STILL on book for performances? Not just that prompting is present, but being needed repeatedly, and reading from a script? During a Broadway performance?

That is pathetic, unacceptable, and faintly ridiculous.

I know wherefrom I speak here--I have played Bobby Gould years ago, and while a challenging role, it is not a long play. Anyone who calls themselves a professional actor and has pride in their work should be able to get their arms around this with two weeks of prep time. Hell, many productions across the country run on a 3.5 week model for getting up plays, so 2 weeks to be a drop-in replacement is more than enough time.

Knowing Mr. Butz's pedigree with musicals makes me wonder if a double-standard is in place, because the idea that someone would be fucking around at this point makes me wonder if his background inspires a different idea about what constitutes rigor and professionalism. I don't know enough about the Broadway musical scene to say that this is the case--perhaps it is isolated to Mr. Butz.


The industry narrative going forward, as it is in the article, is that Norman Leo Butz is a saint for taking on a gargantuan task and should be applauded in any event, regardless of the results. But looking at the timeline and the facts, I think this kind of performance shouldn't be acceptable at any professional theater.