Interview: Frank Rich – Talking about Theatre, Politics and Himself

Six Questions for Frank Rich

Frank Rich is one of America’s best informed political writers, and his honesty and candor continues to be a refreshing change from the dizzying spin that emanates from the politicians in our nation’s capitol. For theatre people (who have been around for a while) it is the same Frank Rich who one was the chief theatre critic for the New York Times,and whose reviews were approached with a mixture of awe and derision, depending on what bombs or bon bons he dropped about your latest show.

Having moved on the New York Magazine, he continues to be a force in America’s ongoing political commentary. With his upcoming visit to the Berkshires, where he will appear on October 9 at 2:00 PM at the Colonial Theatre in an open discussion with Joe Donahue of WAMC, we will get to hear his latest thoughts on the nation’s health and well being, and whether it can survive the nasty gridlock that has resulted in the Republicans holding an entire nation’s economic well being hostage in an effort to deprive one person of their job – Barack Obama.

Since he will be covering politics (and who knows which other topics) we had a chance to toss a few questions back and forth with Rich. They give us a bit of an inside look at the man from whom you can’t hide the truth.

1. So which question, or thought has been bouncing around in your mind most these days?

Frank Rich: The prospect that we might have a double-dip recession and what that might mean for an already depressed and dysfunctional America.

2. Do you go to see much theatre these days? (Like Book of Mormon, or maybe a little side trip to Harvard and Porgy and Bess at ART)?

Frank Rich: Go all the time. Even got in a bit of pseudo-theater criticism for the first time in memory when Matt Stone and Trey Parker, authors of “Book of Mormon,” asked me to write the liner note for the Broadway cast recording. It was fun. Look forward to seeing the new “Porgy” in its final version when it opens in New York.

(Ed. Note: Porgy and Bess will play a limited run on Broadway, producers announced 10/7. Previews will begin Dec. 17 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York, where the show is scheduled to open Jan. 12, 2012, and play through June 24, 2012. The musical, which is directed by Diane Paulus and adapted by Suzan-Lori Parks and Diedre L. Murray from the 1935 opera by George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, wrapped up a more than six-week run at the ART’s Loeb Drama Center on Sunday. )

3. Has the change from the NY Times to NY Magazine brought a bit more time and control to your life? How do you use it?

Frank Rich: Not so much more time, but an ability to manage the existing time better without having the gun of a deadline to my head quite so frequently. As was the case at the Times in the past few years, much of my free time is devoted to HBO, where my work lately includes being an executive producer on VEEP, a new comedy series that is shooting this fall in Baltimore and DC and will appear on the network in 2012.

4.You’ve taken the dialogue format to a new level, what are its attractions?

Frank Rich: Thank you. The biggest attraction is having the conversation with Adam Moss, the editor of New York, and formerly my editor at the Times, with whom I’ve had an on-and-off collaboration and friendship — and running conversation — for more than 20 years.

5. Do you find people can still be reasonable, or are they taking their cues from the politicians?

Frank Rich: Most people are reasonable until they enter the political process. Then, all bets are off!

6. Is there another book in you?

Frank Rich: I want to write another memoir as a companion piece to “Ghost Light” and have in fact signed a contract for it. Finding the time is another thing, but I hope to get going on it, perhaps even teasing out some of it at New York when we’re out of the political season.

Larry Murray: Thanks, I hoped these might prove interesting to answer. I do wonder if you might answer onemore. To satisfy my own curiousity.

Frank Rich: Delighted to do it. All good questions– and I very much enjoyed your preview piece too.

Larry Murray: Thanks, that means a lot to me. So tell me this…

7. Do you find constantly writing about things you love (theatre, politics) tends to dissipate the passion you once had for them?

Frank Rich: No, not at all. If anything the reverse. This is an exciting time to be writing about politics because so much is at stake and the personalities, good, bad and ugly, are mostly fascinating. My work at HBO reminds me of my earliest passion for the theater — putting on shows at Indian Hill, the summer arts camp (no longer extant) in Stockbridge that was formative in my development as a stage-struck adolescent. This first love will never wilt for me.

Larry Murray: Well, that’s a little something I didn’t know. Frank Rich has an early Berkshire connection! Thanks for your time, and keep telling it like it is!

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