Last time I checked, putting on a full scale production requires a team of professionals, all doing their job at a high level, in order for the show to succeed. I'm far from the only one who believes this.
With that philosophy, I have been repeatedly appalled with the level of disrespect and discredit that technical artists and crew members receive. But it's incredibly upsetting to see it coming from professional organizations and publications that should know better.
This past week, United Scenic Artists Local USA 829, sent out a petition to be signed, protesting that the New York Times would cease crediting the technical designers in their reviews along with the cast and directors.
The petition stated,
That small box at the end of each review is extremely important to many of us; theatre-goers and professionals alike. Not only did the credit box provide basic information about the location and dates for the production, it also provided your readers with basic information of who worked to create the show: the author, cast, designers, director and other key creative personnel. The vast majority of people who contribute to any production work behind the scenes and by eliminating their credits you have taken away the minimal recognition that these important workers receive.
In other areas the NY Times seems to adhere to the philosophy "give credit where credit is due" but abandon it here. The contributors to an article or editorial in the NY Times are always listed; a photograph on your website always credits the photographer or source; why then is it acceptable to ignore the contributors to a live theatrical production? This is especially dismissive in a city such as NYC where the performing arts are such a vital part of the economy and our daily life.In other areas the NY Times seems to adhere to the philosophy "give credit where credit is due" but abandon it here. The contributors to an article or editorial in the NY Times are always listed; a photograph on your website always credits the photographer or source; why then is it acceptable to ignore the contributors to a live theatrical production? This is especially dismissive in a city such as NYC where the performing arts are such a vital part of the economy and our daily life.
Broadway alone contributes nearly $12 billion to the economy of NYC in addition to the ticket sales, and 87,000 local jobs. It is considered one of NYC's greatest tourist destinations with 6.7 million tickets bought by tourists during the 2014-15 season alone. The artists who create the product that drives this economic engine deserve recognition.
This decision makes no sense to me. If the Times would never do the opposite, by removing the credits of the cast. Then why is it acceptable to do it toward the designers?
While I'm angered by this, I'm not surprised. Sadly this is just another blow towards designers that has shockingly become a regular practice.
Case in point: The American Theatre Wing has been doing it for years.
In 2014, there was a justified uproar over their decision to stop awarding Sound Designers for their work. They didn't have a sensible reason for retiring the awards then and they still haven't come up with one. But this was far from the first time they've done this.
In 1963, they stopped presenting an award for Best Stage Technician. In 1964 they stopped awarding Best Conductor and Musical Director as well.
And during this year's ceremony many of the technical awards, some which were historic wins, were presented during commercial breaks going unseen to the national live audience.
I'll never understand the logic of removing the opportunity for much deserved recognition for these artists.
But this new development with the Times is a different situation all together. For a publication that prides itself, whether you agree or not, on being the authority for all that is Broadway, you would think they would be on the front line of promoting and defending the work of designers and technical crews in these theaters.
Ironically, they have been in the past.
When the announcement came that there would no longer be a Tony Award for Best Sound Design, the New York Times relentlessly reported on it.
I do hope they reconsider this change. For a publication that views itself as being a champion for Broadway artists, it's beyond baffling that they would seek to discredit the work of these individuals.
I encourage you to sign this petition in hopes that we can stop this downward trend.