Now this may be the most foolhardy choice I've ever made, but it's such a big, meaty play that it deserves to be on the Geary stage. We do Lillian Hellman, we do August Wilson, we do Stoppard. Who's the next generation of writers writing 10-character plays that can fit in the Geary? No wonder nobody's doing it, because who's producing it? Nobody! Of course everyone's writing four-character plays. They're not idiots.
You have to say to a writer, "Have the courage to think big. Learn the Chekhovian skill of writing for 10 actors," which is extremely difficult. To sustain complex character over a canvas that size is a totally different challenge. We don't ask our writers to do that anymore.
LEE SANKOWICH Well, it comes down to support. To be able to do what both of you are talking about, it comes down to corporate funding and grants.
CP But the grant ethos right now — the word that is used more than anything else — is outcomes, right? We're all being asked to demonstrate measurable outcomes. To me this is so hilarious. It's like saying, "I'm going to be raising my children, and the measurable outcomes are what?"
CS We need to — as artists and as leaders of artistic institutions — stand up and say, "No, we need cultural metrics. We need the enlightenment-o-meter for measurable outcomes." Did I walk out of this performance of Orson's Shadow knowing more about the peculiar nature of these tremendous stars and their relationships and how that impulse really created art? Did I leave there somehow changed? And can we measure that? Can we say, instead, there was a 20 percent increase in enlightenment — what a remarkable outcome! — although the attendance figures stayed flat?
LS It's interesting, [when] you walk out of Orson's Shadow, if nothing else, you realize that the big struggle, especially for Welles and Olivier, [is that] they're known for what they did 30 years earlier. And their big thing is they're trying to become modern.
CS The opening of our seasons is really emblematic. MTC is working with these great artists in a very literate, funny, interesting perspective. ACT is working on this very big social canvas in a really smart way with Stoppard. The Magic Theatre is getting to work with Sam Shepard and his most recent play [The God of Hell], likewise his most passionate play, written in a moment specifically with the intention to affect the outcome of an election! SFBG
For the complete interview with Perloff, Sankowich, and Smith, see www.sfbg.com/blogs/pixel_vision.