Monday, April 23, 2007

Talking about 'Talk Radio'

NYC – The whole Don Imus fiasco played out huge in New York, good timing for the return of Eric Bogosian’s shock-jock examination, “Talk Radio,” which runs through June 24 at the Longacre Theatre.

Bogosian appeared on a panel with star Liev Schreiber and producer Jeffrey Richards at last week’s League of American Theatres and Producers conference.

Richards said as soon as he read the 1987 script, that included the early lines “This country is in deep trouble, people,” he knew he had to bring it to Broadway.

Jeffrey (to Eric): You could have written this yesterday.

Eric: The guy who wrote this play is a very different guy from me. I began writing it 24 years ago.

I think it’s about ambition more than anything else. … Plays are platforms for great performances, where actors get a chance to stretch out. That’s the reason I’m so happy to see the play back up. It’s a collaborative piece where a great actor meets my play halfway.

Jeffrey: There was no discussion about any other artist doing this play.

Liev: I’m not certain that it’s such a great compliment to me that I’m perfect to play Barry Champlain.

I get the sense of a new audience development happening in New York. I wanted to do it … What I got a sense of with "Glengarry (Glen Ross)" and straight plays … I was shocked at the volume of straight plays. And the box office on these plays was remarkably strong, more than I had ever noticed.

Eric doesn’t fit in the Broadway mold in my mind. He’s always pushing the envelope in his work; it’s downtown theater. To me, Eric is to theater what Johnny Rotten was to music. He was doing something dangerous. … Every word that this play is saying is volatile and interesting and vital to your life right now. It’s the idea of engaging with your community with an idea.

It’s essential for us to engage with these ideas, no matter how painful they are, in a meaningful way.

Liev was asked whether he thought the Virginia Tech shootings, which had occurred earlier in the week, would affect theater audiences.

Liev: I have a feeling I’m going to feel something tonight … the next couple of days are going to be a little murky in the theater. I worked in theater after 9/11. It’s really a kind of a church for people. (All of that) is living in the back of everybody’s minds. …

Eric: The difference between a live audience or a film or a rock concert where it’s so loud, in the theater, the audience is aware of each other’s reactions … All of this becomes this big push and pull. A lot of the attitude in this play is just part of our culture today. That’s a lot of why this play could be put up today, or put up in front of a broader audience. (It’s Lou Reed doing Metal Machine Music.)”

He gets no reaction from the theater conference audience, perhaps more familiar with musicals than obscure 1975 Lou Reed albums.

Eric: The play then showed a future which we are now in. – Michael Kilgore/TBPAC

From “Talk Radio”:
“… A country where culture means
pornography and slasher films,
where ethics means payoffs,
graft, insider trading …
where integrity means Iying,
whoring and intoxication …
This country is
in deep trouble, people.
This country is rotten to the core and
somebody better do something about it.
Take your hand out of that bowl of
Fritos, throw away your National Enquirer,
and pick up the phone,
hold it up to your face...
and dial 555-TALK.
Open your mouth and tell me what we're
gonna do about the mess this country's in.”

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