(Feingold’s article appeared on Theatermania, 9/4.)
At The Hirschfeld Century, the retrospective of Al Hirschfeld's work on display through October 12 at the New-York Historical Society, you can seat yourself in the beloved barber chair where Hirschfeld sat down to work every day, and try your own hand at his drawing board. Lacking his decades of daily practice, however, you are unlikely to match his results. A disciplined regularity was the key to the superb distillation of the caricaturist's art that he achieved.
The irony is that he took as his principal subject an art in which discipline and regularity, though absolutely necessary, stand in constant conflict to the form's circumstances. Try as you will to organize the theater's situation, it remains a potential chaos. Every performance, every production, every institutional season, offers the prospect of someone or something going hopelessly out of control. I have seen an actor die onstage. I have watched scenery fall on someone's head on one occasion and catch fire on another. In today's overmechanized Broadway spectacles, I've watched the action come to a grinding halt more times than I can count.
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