May 9, 2002

What things cost

Last night, Linda and I went to Robert Brustein's retirement party. Brustein's an important critic and playwright, and he's directed the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge since the 70's. Linda and I have been going to ART productions for decades.

Going to see the same repertory company for a very long time has some interesting benefits. First, because Brustein's taste in theater aren't mine, we've seen a lot of theater I'd be unlikely to see ticket-by-ticket. I think, over the years, we've seen all of Ibsen and nearly all of Brecht, and I'm happy about that.

Even better, we've seen some of the same actors in a host of parts over a host of years. It's good to know, for example, that you can be Alvin Epstein's age and still improve so much from year to year.

It's also fun to see the threads of connection in a field that isn't yours. Theatrical events like this make it easy because you recognize the names and faces. Before Brustein brought it to Harvard, this was the Yale Rep, and some of those early students (Meryl Streep and Christopher Durang were classmates) have already had long and important careers. And there are also the interesting threads of interest and community, historical (the evening opened with Gershwin, and Brustein arrives in the theater just as the Yiddish theater and the Yiddish world are closing) and artistic (look! there's Art Buchwald! George Fifield and Brooke Adams! David Mamet and Rebecca Pidgeon! Debra Winger! F. Murray Abraham! Mike Wallace!)

Besides sending Brustein on sabbatical in style, the evening funds a scholarship. I hope they keep the pictures. A hundred years from now, the recipient should be given an old-fashioned photograph of the old folks in their antique costumes who came out one night to a Boston nightclub and paid their tuition.

Yes, tuition is expensive (as Elin says in the $35K question). Everything is expensive. "Everyone needs money: that's why they call it money." -- Mamet.