Power of the Pause in Annie Baker's The Flick Inspires a Letter From Playwrights Horizons Artistic Director

By Kenneth Jones
26 Mar 2013

Annie Baker
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Playwrights Horizons, which has nurtured Pulitzer Prize winners and acclaimed works over the years, has just over 5,200 subscribers. The Sanford letter went to just under 3,000 people, at a time when (as the New York Times pointed out in its report) PH is hoping its subscribers will renew their subscriptions. The 2013-14 Playwrights Horizons season, just announced, includes three world premieres and three New York premieres

The Flick continues to April 7 at Playwrights Horizons' Mainstage Theater.

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Here's the letter sent by Sanford:

The Flick has stirred up so many emotions, both positive and negative, in audiences that I thought I would reach out to all of you and share my thoughts about it.

I have to admit I was not totally prepared for it to be such a polarizing show. I love Annie's work and thought this was just the play to introduce her to a wider audience. Here are three characters rarely portrayed on the stage these days and Annie imbues them with such humanity and integrity.

Here is how she describes them in our artist interview:

A female projectionist, on whom the men in the play projected their fears and fantasies...this like "unattainable" girl up there in the shadows who was dying for someone to get to know her "for real"...a 35-year-old Red Sox fan who was worried he'd be working there for life...and young film buff who came from both a different race and class background than the other characters in the play. They all started emerging from the movie theatre set in my mind. Also, the main characters in the play are a black guy, a woman, and a Jew (although I no longer make Sam's Jewishness obvious). And that was important to me when I started writing the play. Three of the great "Others" of American cinema, all of them victim to extreme stereotypes. And yet what are Hollywood movies without blacks, Jews, and women? I wanted these people to be quietly (maybe even unconsciously) fighting against their respective pigeonholes. And I also grew up knowing lower-middle-class Jews, hyper-educated black people, and women who wear baggy clothes and no makeup, and yet it is so rare to encounter any of those people in plays and movies. It feels like those people are like forced to wander outside of and on the periphery of plays and movies. So I literalized that — they're like cleaning up everyone else's crap AFTER the movie is over.

I hoped that Annie's palpable and compassion her characters and the play's fairly straightforward plot about a developing ethical workplace quandary along with would win you all over. Of course I had some trepidation about its length. Theatregoers rarely encounter three-hour plays these days even though most classic scripts from earlier ages routinely clock in well above that length. When performances began and some of you walked out at intermission, emphatically expressing your displeasure to our House Manager, we had lengthy discussions about what to do. Could we make internal cuts within the scenes or could whole scenes go? Were there places to pick up the pace? Each scene seemed to have important reasons for being there. And what about those long silences between lines? Here are Annie's thoughts on this subject:

I'm just trying to accurately portray the people who live in the movie theatre inside my head, and I guess there's a lot of moments of not-talking in that movie theatre inside my head. All the walking and sweeping and mopping and dustpan-banging-there's a whole symphony happening that Sam and the actors orchestrated.. But I wouldn't call that silence. I think there's actually very little ACTUAL silence in this play. But yeah, my favorite moments in all of my plays are usually moments when people aren't talking.

 Continued...