Could anyone alive today work for the New York Times for 35 years the way (Justin) Brooks Atkinson (1894-1984) did? Most people only know him from the Broadway theater that bears his name. His principal occupation was drama critic.
Yes, this one man had the “make or break” power that determined the fate of many a show.
Lest you think that he pronounced from some holier-than-thou throne, he begged to be allowed in the Navy in WWII, but was refused. So, the NYT sent him as a war correspondent to the Pacific. Then post-war Russia.
He was an early encourager of Eugene O’Neill, considered a classic today; attitudes were quite different at the time the work was brand new. He also came out of retirement in 1965 to write a rave review of “Man of LaMancha,’ which the show used abundantly in its publicity.
He wrote numerous books, most of which one can find at the Library for the Performing Arts at LincolnCenter. Filled with humor and wisdom, they offer, for instance:
“The most fatal illusion is the narrow point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.”
And: “In every age ‘the good old days’ were a myth. No one ever thought they were good at the time. For every age has consisted of crises that seemed intolerable to the people who lived through them.”
© 2014 by Frank Daykin, for Innovative Music Programs