Sunday, May 26, 2024

New York Times Theater Critic Ben Brantley Out After 24 Years: When Broadway Returns, What Will Happen Next?


Is he stepping down or being pushed out the window? Whichever way it’s gone, Ben Brantley is out as the New York Times chief theater critic on October 15th after 24 years.

He said in a statement: “This pandemic pause in the great, energizing party that is the theater seemed to me like a good moment to slip out the door. But when the theater returns, I hope to be there—as a writer, an audience member and, above all, the stark raving fan I have been since I was a child.”

Either the Times didn’t want to keep paying him for the next six months until Broadway returns, or they offered him an exit package that was too good to pass up. Yes, 24 years is a long time. but Brantley was mostly a benign presence, much less polarizing than predecessors Frank Rich or Clive Barnes. I didn’t always agree with him, but I was rarely outraged by his most extreme feelings about shows.

Will Brantley come back to the Times when Broadway does return? Maybe. Or maybe the paper will do what just about every media company is doing now and find a non-male, non-white entity to replace him. The world is changing fast in this regard. We’ll have to wait and see.

Broadway is still one of the big question marks left in this pandemic debacle. Will people go to theaters, where seats are closecloseclose? Can the theaters adapt themselves? Will everyone just get sick again? And what about those creating the shows? How will they maintain social distance? Will the players wear masks?

All I know is, someone had better get a grip on this fast. New York needs theater and live performance to return ASAP, with or without Ben Brantley.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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