Well, okay. Malcolm Gladwell knows a thing or two:
The passage to which I wish to attract your attention:
Third thing that Howard did, and perhaps the most important, is Howard confronted the notion of the Platonic dish. What do I mean by that? For the longest time in the food industry, there was a sense that there was one way, a perfect way, to make a dish. You go to Chez Panisse, they give you the red-tail sashimi with roasted pumpkin seeds in a something something reduction. They don't give you five options on the reduction, right? They don't say, do you want the extra-chunky reduction, or do you want the -- no! You just get the reduction. Why? Because the chef at Chez Panisse has a Platonic notion about red-tail sashimi. This is the way it ought to be. And she serves it that way time and time again, and if you quarrel with her, she will say, "You know what? You're wrong! This is the best way it ought to be in this restaurant."As Hugh MacLeod once put it:
And the reason we thought that -- in other words, people in the cooking world were looking for cooking universals. They were looking for one way to treat all of us. And it's good reason for them to be obsessed with the idea of universals, because all of science, through the 19th century and much of the 20th, was obsessed with universals. Psychologists, medical scientists, economists were all interested in finding out the rules that govern the way all of us behave. But that changed, right? What is the great revolution in science of the last 10, 15 years? It is the movement from the search for universals to the understanding of variability. Now in medical science, we don't want to know how necessarily -- just how cancer works, we want to know how your cancer is different from my cancer. I guess my cancer different from your cancer. Genetics has opened the door to the study of human variability. What Howard Moskowitz was doing was saying, this same revolution needs to happen in the world of tomato sauce. And for that, we owe him a great vote of thanks.
A few days ago I made a heady pronouncement on this blog:
If you dip into the Dramatists back catalog, you may sell more tickets. But are you really challenging anyone, yourself most of all? Or are you rather playing it safe and painting by numbers?A bit impetuous, considering the director of IAMA's first up, Shiner, directed a stirring and fresh production of The Elephant Man with the Mechanicals Theatre Group, a production I loved.
I'm really not a purist; I literally have skin in the game*. I know there are those who think the theatre I make isn't theatre at all. (Just as I know there are those who bristle at spelling "theater" with an "-re" instead of an "-er.") But as my friend Scot Nery says, "It's all entertainment." I get a little cranky sometimes, and like to pontificate on HOW THINGS SHOULD BE. In the end, the only thing that matters is whether or not the people in the dark had a good time. If what I consider to be "paint by numbers" theatre gets the job done, so be it. Some people like Nunsense and some people really dig pretentious, art-for-art's-sake performance art. They're all right. It's better, perhaps, to try to understand the variety of forms live entertainment takes than to measure everything by some Platonic rubric -- particularly for a reviewer of live entertainment.
In closing, an exchange from that great masterpiece of cinematic storytelling, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves:
Salaam, little one.
Did God paint you?
Did God paint me? For certain.
Because... Allah loves wondrous variety.
Who am I to argue with The Great One?
*see also The Mr. Snapper & Mr. Buddy Rumpus Revue in: "Ten-Gallon Giggles."