Hit The Road, Mate!

I read the interview with Mark Thompson in the September 2004 issue of ED (Centerline Q&A, pg. 8). My reaction was a very positive one: Mark, go back to England. He came across as one big crybaby. I know many people who vote in the Tony Awards. Many of them are biased about many things. I do not know one who is — to use Mark's expression — anti-Brit. He thinks that the Tonys are uninteresting and a load of nonsense; I guess he's cross because he was only nominated in one category for his work on Bombay Dreams.

Of course, everyone involved in every show would rather have a hit than a Tony nomination. But he could not be more wrong than when he says, “The designer is not respected in this city at all.” He also states it's “all about the director.” Well, that's the way it should be. However, all good directors look for and encourage ideas from all members of their “design team.” Most of them, but not all of them, give praise and credit to their design team. I think it is remarkable that Mr. Thompson is so positive about how American directors work, yet he “actually never worked with an American director.” Of course, American directors talk to their design team. How else could they create the one vision that the show must have?

I have one thing to say to Mr. Thompson: Bon voyage.
Sonny Sonnenfeld
Special consultant to ETC

What He Said!

The recent interview with British Designer Mark Thompson left us speechless - but only temporarily. We all understand that it's easy to be misrepresented in the press, but as we have no proof that that is the case here, it can only be assumed that he meant what he said. While we must acknowledge that in this industry it is unhealthy to be too sensitive a soul, Mr. Thompson's harsh and condescending remarks compelled me to respond.

First of all, the tone of his interview was not merely insulting and arrogant, but nasty and angry. In what was no less than a decidedly Anti-American diatribe, he accuses us of not understanding design, of being Anti-Brit, and of creating a Broadway that is “loathsome…[with] wobbly bloody bits of flat” and entirely “disappointing.” He doesn't bother to illustrate his accusations with examples, just paints us with one broad brush dipped in venom. To claim that the Tonys are Anti-Brit when in the past thirteen years, only six winners were American scenic designers isn't particularly a model of sportsmanship, especially when you consider the number of American designers who've won Oliviers in the award's twenty-eight year history: one.

Furthermore, his declarations are full of contradictions and hypocrisy. He calls the Tony's “a load of nonsense,” and then whines that he was only nominated for his costumes and not both costumes and scenery. He goes on to claim that the design process is more collaborative in Britain, though he admits he has never worked with an American director. Of course, the one time he was asked only to design scenery, he quit rather than collaborate with a costume designer. He even went so far as to purport that producers' wives have more influence over the design process than designers do. I would hope he only said that to explain the scenery for Bombay Dreams.

The rest of the article continues in a similar vein of ill-temper and misplaced superiority. Fortunately for Mr. Thompson, American designers know enough not to judge our British cousins by the behavior or work of one designer.
An American Studio

DNC Correction

I am writing to correct a mistake in your recent issue regarding the Democratic National Convention (ED, October 2004). On page 24, you credit Allan Wells for all of the graphics. Allan was the production designer in charge of setting up the screens, but The Studio at New Wave Entertainment actually designed and produced all of the graphics for the show. We delivered all of the motion and static graphics to Allan and he made sure they played in the screens correctly.

Both Allan and producer Don Mischer would attest to this. We are very proud of our work and were disappointed to read your otherwise fine article.
Sharre Jacoby, Senior Producer,
The Studio at New Wave Entertainment

ED Evaluation

I am a very long time subscriber, in fact way back to when the magazine was Theatre Crafts. Although I'm probably not representative of the bulk of the subscribers, I do value the magazine and would like to give a little feedback as you look at next steps.

First of all, I am a high school theatre teacher, director, designer and tech director. We have a beautiful small theatre and a small but adequate budget, so we are fortunate in the school theatre world.What I value most in ED are the pictures: especially the “Sketchbook” last page, all renderings and drawings, and production photographs. I have several scrapbooks of pictures, which I use for design ideas and teaching. I can never get enough.

I also value the designer's process articles you have run occasionally — both scenic and costume, complete with drawings and photos. I do not really read the opinion articles by the young designers — too much theory for me. I did enjoy the problem/solutions type articles. Product news is less valuable because most items that new and high tech are way beyond my budget. So, the sum of my comments is more pictures! I like reading about the variety of topics, architecture, theme parks, etc., as long as the pictures are good and the explanations of what we're seeing are clear. Thanks for your work. I do feel ED fills a need that isn't addressed anywhere else.
— Liz Snell, U-32 High School Director of Theatre Arts