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A Constructive Look at RED-EYE to HAVRE de GRACE


At ArtsEmerson, we love a good a conversation. Presenting a wide stroke of work from around the world means many varied voices and styles come across our stages– an aspect of the organization that is simultaneously a strength and a challenge. One of our patrons, David Kaplan, experienced the experimental Edgar Allan Poe action-opera RED-EYE to HAVRE de GRACE when it played the Paramount Mainstage in the middle of February. He did not enjoy his experience. But Mr. Kaplan took it a step further and began a dialogue with ArtsEmerson including his criticism of the piece. Here’s what happened…

On the Tuesday following the performance, Mr. Kaplan sent the Box Office this e-mail:


I attended Red-Eye last week and received your email requesting feedback on Facebook.  My feedback is constructive but not positive, so I thought it best to write to you directly.

I love experimental theater.  The problem is that experiments don’t always work.  For me, Red-Eye was just an incoherent mess with lots of furniture being dragged around the stage.  (Compare the scene change choreography in the A.R.T.’s fabulous Witness Uganda.)  Maybe the piece would have worked better in a small black box space.  Maybe if it was just a 55 minute piece.  Maybe if the “Ranger Steve” introduction was tightened to the point where it didn’t get boring and leave the audience wondering when the show would begin.  At the end, I gave polite applause; the woman next to me did not do even that.  I looked around, and we were not the only underwhelmed members of the audience.

Arts Emerson’s “welcome” address also needs to be rethought.  No disrespect intended, but the lengthy “thank you for coming” and “thank you to our sponsors” is amateurish and the stuff of community theater.  Professional houses get on with the show without a lengthy energy-sapping speech.  Performing arts companies from the Metropolitan Opera to the A.R.T acknowledge sponsors in signage, programs and brochures.  The Museum of Fine Arts doesn’t make visitors listen to a speech before letting them in the door.

Lest you think I’m just hard to please: Mies Julie was an unforgettable night of wonderful, powerful theater. The Colla Marionette’s Sleeping Beauty was enchanting. Previous Arts Emerson productions I’ve seen have also been excellent. This evening simply fell short.

Thank you for listening.

David Kaplan

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