Cricket's Notebook by Larry Stark - "An Open Letter to Mayor Thomas Menino"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


Friday, 26 May, 2000: "An Open Letter to Mayor Thomas Menino"

LARRY STARK'S Theater Mirror
125 Amory Street #501
Roxbury MA 02119

The Honorable Thomas Menino
Boston City Hall
Boston MA 02110

Dear Mayor Menino:
Peter Brook said "I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage."
But if he called it a "theatre" here in Boston he'd immediately face a barrage of regulations, restrictions, requirements and inspections designed to insure maximum safety whenever a disastrous theatrical fire erupted there.

Mayor, when was the last time you heard of a disastrous fire breaking out in any Boston theatre?

Wouldn't it be better to legislate safer means of preventing theatrical fires, rather than continuing a complicated inspection bureaucracy in the Licensing Department which, whether it is true or not, will always be suspected of possible graft and bribery?

It is heartening to hear that the Fan Pier Project and construction beside the Boston Center for The Arts will add needed new permanent performance spaces to the city. But the architecture of these spaces will have to conform to countless legal specifications, adding costs and restricting audience size, that are designed to counteract dangers that never will arise. Can't you look into the matter?

Let me illustrate with a story:
The second show performed on the Loeb Drama Center's main stage had as a set a sixty-foot disc the front few feet of which projected over the edge of the stage. It was provided with a trench a foot wide, over which breakaway-staging was constructed.
Because otherwise that bit of set would prevent the fire-curtain from reaching the stage if it had to come crashing down from the flies.
Since this technological oddity caused the crew difficulties, Chuck Hayford the stage manager, after the final performance, tried to test this "fix" by unhooking the restraints and letting that heavy asbestos fire-curtain come crashing down .... very slowly, until it stopped half way and hung twenty feet above the stage.
To my knowledge, that fire-curtain has never been needed or used since --- even during a fire that did, indeed, damage a section of the big red-plush curtain behind the proscenium arch..

And one more story:
The Pocket Mime Theatre was in its third season when, shortly after they put their first display-ads in the Boston GLOBE, a fire inspector appeared citing violations. Then after weeks of total silence, inspectors appeared at a Thursday night performance and closed the theatre, refusing the producers any negotiations over time to raise money for renovations. Those involved still believe that a prompt offer of a bribe could have changed the climate considerably.

Mayor, I see new small theatrical companies blossoming here in Boston every few months. They are crowded into limited-run performances because the busy schedules of such venues as The Boston Center for The Arts, The Brimmer Street theatres at Emerson, the Boston Playwrights' Theatre, the Beau Jest Theatre, and the Actors' Workshop cannot deal with runs of more than two week-ends --- which means that a really popular attraction cannot capitalize on its success by extending the run.

I wish you would call for an overhaul of fire regulations and licensing restrictions designed to make more performance spaces available to the many Bostonians who would love to see and to produce more live stage productions in the city.

Thank you for your attention.

===Anon. ( a k a larry stark, THE THEATER MIRROR )

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide