Feingold brings up an that I’ve struggled to articulate: “Americans tend to make a big to-do about success, especially when quantifiable: the number of awards, box office dollars, Web hits, performances given, copies sold, likes clicked, and whatever else you can tot up statistically. No doubt this fascination with metrics has its good side. It encourages a healthy competitive sense in artists, and it keeps the public interested. But it also has a downside: It puts success ahead of other values that might be healthier for the human spirit, and it often does so in a frenzied, obsessive way that’s probably unhealthy in itself.” In these four sentences he has encapsulated the complexity of an argument I continually find myself grappling with.
A play such as Allegiance contains an off-the-beaten-path narrative heavily influenced by a historical event affecting Japanese American citizens on a mainstream platform with a star studded cast – including but not limited to my girl, Lea Salonga – yet flops commercially and will be closing early. Feingold’s article in The Village Voice narrates the commercial failure of Allegiance and addresses some of the issues confronting the show. Allegiance tackled the subject of internment camps during WWII and Feingold even goes as far to state that “many ordinary musical show patrons would find [this subject] off putting” using this as another justification for why the show is closing preemptively. Aside from audience and subject, he also cites the production itself as factor in the commercial failure of the production, for full disclosure.
I’ll let that sink in.
“Honest mistakes of honest craftsmen” is a phrase Feingold uses to aptly describe an element that lead to the commercial failure of Allegiance. Feingold passionately argues the value of the narrative above mainstream success and diminishes the weight of the mistakes within the production. The value of narrative within the piece far outweighs the mishaps within production. How are stories and works such as Allegiance expected to make it to mainstream media and succeed commercially when the cut throat culture of Broadway fails to see the initiative and trailblazing effort behind the work?